Australia’s emergency workers will receive additional mental health support through the establishment of the National Emergency Workers Support Service (NEWSS).
The Government is providing $4 million to the Black Dog Institute to establish and deliver the NEWSS, which is an expansion of the National Bush Fire Support Service. This service will be extended to all emergency services workers who respond to national disasters such as bushfires, floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the NEWSS, emergency services workers will be able to access an online mental health self-assessment and triage service including access up to 12 free sessions with a clinical psychologist face to face or via telehealth.
This integrated and tailored approach will make it easier for these essential workers to search for, navigate and determine their eligibility for support and appropriate resources. Users with more severe mental health symptoms will be linked directly to either the Black Dog Institute’s Depression Clinic or the University of New South Wales Traumatic Stress Clinic.
39 per cent of emergency responders are diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their life. They are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at a rate two times higher than the general population.
The service will also provide specialist mental health training to GPs and other health care professionals to help provide appropriate support and referral options to emergency services workers.
Quotes attributable to Minister, Murray Watt:
“We know that responding to relentless natural disasters, along with the pandemic, has no doubt put strain on our emergency service workers.
“Australians are so grateful for their tireless efforts, which have kept communities safe in times of need, and it’s only right that we ensure they are supported too.
“I’m very pleased to support this cause, which aims to make getting help easier.”
Quotes attributable to Assistant Minister, Emma McBride:
“The mental health impacts of natural disasters and emergencies can present over a long period of time.
“Australia’s emergency services workers and volunteers are critical to how significant events are responded to by governments.
“This service is part of a broader Government response to support the mental health and well-being of Australians after disasters.”