Answering the Call

The first national survey of mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency services personnel

Answering the call is the first national survey of mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency services personnel. Conducted by Associate Professor David Lawrence from UWA’s Graduate School of Education, in partnership with Roy Morgan Research, the survey collected information about mental health and wellbeing, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, including the impact that mental health issues have on people’s everyday lives, and information about associated risk and protective factors, including resilience and social support, physical health and the use of alcohol and drugs.

More than 21,000 people participated, including current employees (operational and non-operational), current volunteers, and former/retired employees working in ambulance, fire and rescue, police, and state emergency service agencies in each Australian state and territory.

The research focused on organisational and team culture, and workplace factors that can affect mental wellbeing, including attitudes and experiences of stigma and discrimination, as well as the use of support services when needed, including those provided by agencies and seeking support outside the agency, and the barriers that might stand in the way of seeking help if needed.

The results paint a picture of a workforce which is deeply impacted, both by the nature of the work that it does, and by the pressures of the environments in which people work. The research identified that workplace exposure to traumatic experiences is clearly a risk factor for mental health issues.

However, it is not just the exposure to trauma, but how this is handled and managed within the workplace that matters. Workplaces that are supportive and inclusive, that have regular discussions about workplace experiences, and that more effectively manage emotional demands on staff have lower rates of mental health issues.

The survey identified significant numbers of people struggling with mental health issues who did not receive help. There is an ongoing need to educate people and support them to get help when needed. Organisational and personal stigma, concerns about being taken out of operational roles, adverse career impacts and being perceived as weak remain barriers to receiving help when needed. Results from the survey will be published in a report to inform government and policy-makers in this area.

Answering the Call is part of the beyondblue Police and Emergency Services Program. The study was funded by beyondblue from its core Commonwealth funding, with additional funding support from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

Research team leader: Associate Professor David Lawrence

For more information or to download the full report, visit the Beyond Blue website.

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Establish national baseline measures of wellbeing, mental health conditions and suicide risk among police and emergency services personnel

Provide evidence about the issues affecting the mental health of police and emergency services personnel and the best ways to provide support

Contact Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow David Lawrence