Mental health training to address suicide rates among paramedics

by L&D01 Jun 2016
Victoria’s ambulance officers have an average annual suicide rate of 35.6 per 100,000 workers, according to a Victorian Coroners Prevention Unit report prepared last year.

That’s more than three and a half times higher than police (10 per 100,000), and fire fighters and other emergency workers (10.5 per 100,000).

It’s also about four times higher than the average rate among employed Victorians.

In response, a $1 million mental health program is being rolled out across the state, due to a new partnership between Ambulance Victorian and beyondblue.

The two organisations will join forces to design the new training program covering topics such as depression and anxiety, trauma, substance abuse and suicide prevention.
The training will support paramedics to be better equipped to understand mental health issues, recognise and respond to those at risk of suicide and receive advice on getting the necessary help.

The training will begin this month for paramedics and managers before being rolled out state-wide.

As part of the Ambulance Response Time Rescue Fund, the Victorian Labor Government are providing $2.7 million for initiatives to support paramedic health and wellbeing, including $1 million for the mental health training.

The Minister for Ambulance Services Jill Hennessy said that paramedics face life and death emergencies, violence and major trauma every day on the job, and this understandably takes its toll on their mental health and wellbeing.
“Our paramedics do a wonderful job saving lives and taking care of others – that’s why we need to do everything we can to help save their lives and support them to take care of themselves,” she said.
The CEO of beyondblue Georgie Harman added that the organisation is pleased to partner with Ambulance Victoria to deliver a program tailor-made for its employees.

“No matter what your role, you’re part of a workforce that – like any workplace in Australia – is diverse, has politics, brings satisfaction and connectedness,” said Harman.

“Every first responder agency has different needs. Whether you work in a communications centre, on the road or behind a desk, managing a large team or at the start of your career, you bring your whole selves to work.”
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