Mental health study could pave the way for better prevention and more resilient workers

Mental health study could pave the way for better prevention and more resilient workers 

Courtesy of The Black Dog Institute

Research carried out by the UNSW Workplace Mental Health Research Team and The Black Dog Institute and published early 2019 highlights how organisations can be more proactive to identify and protect staff at risk of PTSD and depression.

In a first-of-its-kind study led by Senior Psychologist and PhD Candidate Sadhbh Joyce, measures of resilience in active NSW Fire & Rescue workers were collected over time to determine their ability to predict mental health outcomes. The results, published in the Journal of Occupational and Emergency Medicine (JOEM), show the potential benefits of screening for resilience, particularly among emergency services personnel, prior to entering the workforce full-time.

The study’s primary finding was that self-reported low resilience at the beginning of the study was able to predict increased risk of PTSD and depression symptoms at a 6-month follow-up. The findings support previous research from a study of newly graduated paramedics, which also found self-reported low resilience predicted heightened symptoms of depression at 2-year follow-up. 

The results suggest resilience screening may serve as a more effective way to identify workers who would benefit from early intervention and additional support.

Individual resilience is the ability to cope with unexpected changes or challenges and is known to be a quality that can be improved over time. By teaching workers the right psychological skills and strategies, they can become better equipped to adapt in the face of experiences such as change, personal problems, illness, pressure, failure and painful feelings.

Developing these qualities may be an important step in first responders improving their ability to manage the potentially traumatic events that remain an unpredictable yet inherent part of their work.

NSW Ambulance is one organisation that has taken a leading role in working to bolster the psychological resilience of its workers. Last year the Black Dog Institute and NSW Ambulance rolled out the evidence-based resilience training program, RAW Mind Coach, across its entire workforce. The award-winning e-learning program teaches mindfulness and a range of strategies to help workers better manage difficult thoughts, uncomfortable emotions and particularly tough days on the job.