Black Dog Institute launches mental health service to aid first responders

Help here: The Bush Fire Support Service offers emergency service workers and their adult family members up to 12 one-on-one psychological mental health care sessions. Photo: Sharon Ford, Telegraph Point.
Help here: The Bush Fire Support Service offers emergency service workers and their adult family members up to 12 one-on-one psychological mental health care sessions. Photo: Sharon Ford, Telegraph Point.

First responders now have access to free mental health services under a new plan launched by the Black Dog Institute.

The Bush Fire Support Service offers emergency service workers and their adult family members up to 12 one-on-one psychological mental health care sessions.

The Telehealth service is free and aids first responders who assisted in the bushfire effort from all levels of emergency services including firefighters, SES, ambulance, forestry, animal rescue and lifeguards.

It will also offer people a variety of ways of accessing the service, including a confidential online mental health assessment through a website designed to link people with the most appropriate support.

The program is funded by the Department of Home Affairs. The service includes PTSD support services.

Black Dog Institute chief psychiatrist associate professor Sam Harvey says first responders fought tirelessly to put out bushfires that raged around the country.

"Their time at protecting us has stopped for now and the Black Dog Institute is proud to be able to do its part in looking after them," he said .

"We understand that people respond to stress and trauma in different ways and want to offer them multiple ways to seek support.

"As well as the sessions with a clinician there is support for those who prefer to guide their own treatment, with a range of tailored digital resources and evidence-based tools.

"These services are open to those people who responded to the bushfires, no matter where they live - our aim is to use Telehealth and other digital channels to make sure everyone has access the best care possible."

As well as the sessions with a clinician there is support for those who prefer to guide their own treatment, with a range of tailored digital resources and evidence-based tools.

Sam Harvey

The Bush Fire Support Service also includes professional development and the latest mental health evidence training for GPs in bushfire-affected areas to ensure local support for first responders and their families and streamlined referral to specialist mental health care.

Anyone wanting to know more or start the process of getting support can visit blackdoginstitute.org.au/bush-fire-support-service

Meanwhile the Rural Fire Service Association has partnered with St John Ambulance to offer mental health first aid courses to volunteer firefighters.

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Already some 900 mental health first aid courses have been provided to volunteer firefighters.

RFSA president, Brian McDonough, said the mental health courses complimented the holistic support provided to members through the RFSA, including chaplaincy and welfare services.

"The fires may be out for now but helping our members recover is our top priority," Mr McDonough said.

"For many volunteer firefighters and their families, living with the aftermath of the fires is a day-to day challenge.

"We know our members are prepared and skilled to deal with a bushfire crisis - now we want to equip them with the skills to help during a mental health crisis."

St Johns Ambulance NSW CEO, Sarah Lance, said the mental health first aid courses will help firefighters recognise and support colleagues, friends, and family who may be suffering with mental health issues.

"Mental health first aid is just as important as physical first aid," Ms Lance said.

This story Mental health services launched for first responders first appeared on Port Macquarie News.