A sold-out Albury event on the stress faced by emergency workers aims to be another step towards improving the supports now available.
The First Responders Mental Health Symposium on Tuesday, June 18, will discuss depression, suicide, addiction and the overall wellbeing of police officers, paramedics, firefighters and other personnel.
Participants include veterans from these professions, support organisations like Lifeline, headspace and Behind The Seen and Tasmanian Senator Anne Urquhart, part of the recent Senate inquiry into this issue.
Senator Urquhart said the event, her first of this type in a regional centre, would help shine a light on rural mental health services, which were "not as good as they should be".
"The people in regional areas were so much more isolated and the access to help was not there as much," she noted from the inquiry.
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Border paramedic John McCormack, of Hot Response First Aid Training & Consultancy, organised the Albury symposium in response to a Beyond Blue survey that showed one in three emergency workers experience high or very high psychological distress.
Answering The Call, which surveyed 21,014 past and present employees as well as volunteers, also showed they reported having suicidal thoughts more than two times higher than adults in the general population.
"This is an idea of actually bringing people together, various agencies and individuals that are passionate about improving first responder mental illness and support for them," Mr McCormack said.
Tickets were capped at 150, but 650 people expressed interest, with attendees coming from as far away as Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.
Mr McCormack, who has previously spoken of his own experience of post-traumatic stress disorder, said the day would provide education and actions to take back to agencies and governments.
Senator Urquhart said simply listening to inquiry witnesses was quite harrowing.
"So for them I cannot imagine what it must have been like to go to work day in, day out and feel this sort of pressure building," she said.
"It was explained to us that it was almost like a tap dripping into a bucket and eventually that overflows."
The senator said the inquiry arose out of the initial commitment and passion shown by a Tasmanian paramedic.
"Part of my process from here on is to raise awareness, make sure that people get help, but to make sure that report doesn't sit on the shelf and gain dust," she said.
"We're talking about people's lives and their families and people in the community who if we don't get them help when they desperately need it, then we're going to be poorer as a community."
Mr McCormack said workers compensation and employee assistance programs needed to be overhauled, taking the unique challenges faced by emergency workers into account.
"The difference is that we're seeing a lot more trauma, we're experiencing a lot more vicarious trauma day in, day out," he said.
"We see a lot of things that people generally don't see in their lifetime.
"We know that things can get better if we are provided with ongoing comprehensive mental health care and early intervention, that's what we're trying to achieve."
- Lifeline 13 11 14
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