SA Country Fire Service

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Mental health survey for CFS firefighters

SA Country Fire Service (CFS) volunteers are being urged to take part in a survey on the mental health impact of the confronting situations they face and how various factors can help them cope with these stresses.

CFS Director State Operations Rob Sandford said the research would help the organisation to strengthen its support for volunteers and their immediate families.

"The wellbeing of our volunteers is a major priority for us and we offer various forms of support from either trained volunteer peers or external qualified counsellors and psychologists, including individual or group counselling and pre-incident training," he said.

"Firefighters deal with some very challenging situations and we know that most of them cope very well with these situations most of the time. We also know there are some incidents have the potential to cause firefighters' distress.

"This research aims to give us an insight into factors such as the cumulative effect of attending difficult incidents and how that compares and interacts with general operational and organisational stressors," Mr Sandford said. "We are also keen to find out how these stressors may be alleviated by the satisfaction and rewarding aspects of being a firefighter. "

Clinical and consulting psychologist Heather Bancroft is conducting the research through her PhD and is being supervised by staff of the Phoenix Australia Centre for Post-Traumatic Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. Career and volunteer firefighters in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are also being surveyed for the study, which is funded by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

Ms Bancroft said the survey looked at whether factors such as length of service, gender, role, rank, employment and family situations had an impact on mental health outcomes for firefighters, as well as the influence of potentially traumatic events versus other operational and organisational factors.

"We are also aiming to identify the rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and alcohol use disorders in firefighters and other health and wellbeing issues that are specific to firefighters," she said.

"A summary of the completed study will be available to participants and fire services. Complete confidentiality is guaranteed as these results will report group responses and individuals will not be able to be identified. "

CFS volunteers can access the online survey on the CFS Volunteers Portal. The survey closes on November 27.

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For media enquiries telephone the CFS Media Line on (08) 8115 3531.

Further information:
Contact the Bushfire Information Hotline on 1800 362 361, for hearing or speech impaired users, phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 1800 362 361 or teletype service TTY 133 677 then ask for 1800 362 361.
Other options are available at National Relay Service.
Or visit www.cfs.sa.gov.au

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