Program provides mental health support for emergency service volunteers

Monday, 23 May, 2022

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) volunteers are often called to respond to tough conditions during bushfires, floods and cyclones. Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Mark Ryan said QFES volunteers also have other challenges to contend with, included taking care of family, jobs and businesses, with COVID-19 presenting further challenges. “QFES volunteers do a remarkable job, so it’s important that they are provided with the best possible support,” Ryan said.

NAB Executive Retail Queensland Tom Crowley said that recent months have demonstrated how integral volunteers are to helping communities through a natural disaster. “They work tirelessly on the frontline during a crisis, the impact of which can often be felt for a long time after,” Crowley said.

To support the psychological wellbeing of their volunteers, QFES has launched Mindarma, an evidence-based online program proven to enhance psychological resilience. The launch is among one of the largest proactive psychological wellbeing rollouts in Australia. Mindarma, as in ‘mind armour’, teaches mindfulness and a range of cognitive strategies to help learners manage any stressors they may encounter while volunteering and during daily life. Mindarma has already reached thousands of emergency service workers including NSW Ambulance, Ambulance Victoria and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services in Western Australia. “It’s fitting that we officially launch this program during National Volunteer Week, Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteers,” Ryan said.

QFES Commissioner Greg Leach said the program ensures the wellbeing of volunteers by providing practical personal resilience tools. “The 2020 Volunteering for Queensland survey showed 70% of respondents agreed that the wellbeing of the workforce is a priority for QFES. Following consultation with volunteers, the program has been customised for volunteers from the Rural Fire Service (RFS), State Emergency Service (SES) and Fire and Rescue Service, so the message resonates with each participant and identifies service specific scenarios. Thank you to our sponsors, NAB and Suncorp, for their significant commitment to volunteer wellbeing and their alignment to QFES’ vision to create a safe and resilient Queensland in the face of emergencies,” Leach said.

Crowley added that NAB, the Supporting Partner of Rural Fire Service, was pleased to support a program that helped provide support for the mental wellbeing of volunteers. “It is important we continue to support and protect the mental wellbeing of volunteers and the new Mindarma program helps us to do this. We are so often in awe of the work RFS volunteers do and while we like to think of them as superheroes, we must realise they are human. It is great to support a program which supports the wellbeing of all those who do such a valuable job in protecting our communities,” Crowley said.

Suncorp Executive General Manager (People Services, People Culture and Advocacy) Nathan Taylor said Suncorp was proud to be SES’s Principal Community Partner. “Being prepared for anything is what the SES is all about and that’s why Suncorp have been keen to get behind this initiative. Our SES volunteers do an amazing job and at times experience challenging times. Supporting volunteers during these times is what truly matters,” Taylor said.

Dr Sadhbh Joyce, the co-founder of Mindarma and a leading researcher in the field of resilience amongst emergency service workers, said it was a delight to see Mindarma reach so many. “We know that by equipping volunteers with the right skills, we can bolster their resilience and protect against common mental health conditions,” Dr Joyce said.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/VAKSMANV

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