A bad day at work can take its toll on anyone, but when you’re a frontline emergency services worker, a bad day can mean exposure to the most harrowing events and situations.
For our police, ambos and fire firefighters, a string of bad days can mean facing trauma every day that they head into work. That's why the new access to medical treatment for those suffering from mental health issues is a welcome step forward for our emergency service workers.
Improved access to mental health support
Although our emergency service workers are known for their extraordinary courage, we cannot forget they are human. Understanding and preventing psychological injuries is critical.
In June 2019, the Andrews Government began funding Victorian police and paramedics for immediate medical treatment for mental health injuries, while these workers await the outcome of compensation claims for work-related mental health injuries.
Firefighters, State Emergency Service workers, Triple 0 call-takers, corrections staff, child protection officials and public sector nurses and midwives received the same access from July 1. The funding pilot will cover treatment for 13 weeks, but participants can apply for a further 13 weeks of help.
Before this announcement, workers had to wait for their WorkCover claim to be assessed before they could receive financial support to cover the cost of medical expenses – meaning many people delayed seeking help due to huge out-of-pocket costs.
Workers will now be able to access treatment at the earliest possible point and will have the security to know their costs such as GP visits, medication and visits to psychologists and psychiatrists will be covered.
Recognise the signs
Many in the community perhaps don’t appreciate the cumulative effects of constant exposure to trauma. First responders can be affected by one really critical incident, or it can be a combination of a long list of incidents experienced over their career.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can include the following symptoms:
- feeling emotionally numb or upset
- increased irritability or anxiety
- nausea or headaches
- social withdrawal
- suffering nightmares and difficulty sleeping
- feelings of despair and hopelessness
- a more negative view of the world
- increased illness and fatigue
- increased sense of danger
- reduced motivation
- difficulties making decisions or concentrating
- reduced productivity
- avoiding certain things
- increased alcohol, drug or medication use to help cope.
In my experience, these hard working people have often chosen their career paths to make a difference in the world and it is heartening to see that we as a community can pull together to support them in that goal.
To find out more about your eligibility for this support, please talk to your employer, your union representative or WorkSafe Victoria.
If you've been psychologically damaged as a result of work, you may be able to make a compensation claim.
Your mental health is important. Take care of yourself and those around you. And thank an emergency service worker for the incredible role they play in keeping our communities safe, healthy and thriving.