In a new study from Edith Cowan University (ECU) that explores the effects of the Black Summer bushfires on first responders, every volunteer respondent said the Black Summer fires had impacted their wellbeing.
In the year following the fires, nearly half experienced post-traumatic stress symptoms, with 11 per cent diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And 5.5 per cent said they had made suicide plans.
This means that thousands of Australians – people who willingly volunteer their time to serve their communities – are still trying to deal with the trauma they experienced after they answered a call-out that summer.
There were 65,000 first responders involved in the Black Summer fires, and more than 50,000 of those were volunteers who faced horrific conditions and saw traumatic events unfolding.
Afterwards, they tried to go back to their lives. And we left them to it.
This is unacceptable. We cannot continue to turn away from the calls for help that the research and the lived experiences of first responders continue to highlight.
Just as they walk into difficult situations every day, we must face this emergency directly.