Employers of first responders need to make recruits aware of the inherit mental health risks involved in their roles, according to an Australian-first report on post-traumatic stress disorder in the workplace.
The Austrialia21 report, which arose from roundtable discussions with police, fire, ambulance and defence personnel - makes 31 recommendations designed to reduce the impact of PTSD in the workplace, and improve the general mental health of front-line employees.
The report recommends organisations review their recruitment processes to ensure potential recruits are made fully aware of the mental health risks inherit in the job, and the potential lasting impacts of trauma-related stress. It also includes the general need front-line employees to receive more training on how to recognise trauma-related stress in themselves and others.
Australia21 chair Paul Barratt said the nation needed "cultural change to acknowledge that it's a normal consequence to be affected by what first responders see and do in their line of work, and that it's normal to seek support if you feel you need it, and it's normal to get better as a result of treatment."
According to the report, organisations that employ first-responder or frontline employees face unique challenges. These include:
- Managing trauma exposure
- Overcoming the reluctance among workers to seek help because they believe it might be detrimental to their careers
- Training managers to deal with affected staff
- Finding resources to ensure personnel can provide their services in the safest possible way
The report also highlights the importance of maintaining open communication channels with workers on leave with PTSD, and the crucial role the return-to-work process plays in an individual's recovery.
"There is plenty that individual organisations can do now to mitigate risk of trauma-related stress and to improve treatment options for affected staff, without waiting for others to move."