Joint submission
21 June 2018

This is a joint submission by the National Mental Health Commission, Queensland Mental Health Commission, South Australian Mental Health Commission and the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales.

This submission is in response to the Senate Inquiry into the role of Commonwealth, state and territory Governments in addressing the high rates of mental health conditions experienced by first responders, emergency service workers and volunteers.

As employers of many first responders, governments may have particular responsibilities under section 19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth), which states that employers must ensure the physical and psychological health and safety of workers, so far as is reasonably practicable. This is especially relevant given that many of the prominent risk factors for first responder mental health are not exclusive or specific to first responder environments, and thus are reasonable targets for improvement under general workplace WHS policies and management strategies.

The submission includes the following recommendations: 

1. Support the resourcing of clinical and organisational research on key mental health issues and causal operational factors in the first responder sector across Australia to generate a growing evidence base for national reform. 

  • This research can build on existing research, including the research undertaken by the Black Dog Institute and beyondblue, as well as exploring the impact of emerging policy settings both nationally and internationally. 
  • This includes research into the impact and consequences of legislation governing the evidence which employees must provide to substantiate that they have a mental illness. 
  • Further research is also required into the effectiveness of post traumatic growth approaches.

2. Support the resourcing of the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance to work with the Mental Health Commissions, States and Territories and key stakeholders including first responders, policy makers, health professionals, volunteer organisations in first responder roles, insurance and rehabilitation organisations, and unions, to monitor and report on the uptake and impact of existing best practice frameworks for mental health and wellbeing in first responder agencies across Australia, with the aim of providing a strong evidence base for ongoing development.

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Last updated: 2 July 2018