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Media release: First responders improve social connections through Fortem

Fortem Australia’s wellbeing activities are making a difference in the lives of first responders across the country, increasing social connectedness among the community in a way that is delivering mental health benefits.

Social connectedness is the strongest predictor of mental health and wellbeing after stress and trauma.

Research by Fortem’s Senior Clinician Dominic Hilbrink published in the Australian Journal of Emergency Management shows that social connection is a powerful way to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience in first responders.

A survey of first responders and their families that have taken part in Fortem’s wellbeing activities provides insight into the program’s benefits.

Just under half of all participants in wellbeing activities were either serving or volunteer first responders, while 44 per cent were family members.

Nearly all (97 per cent) of the participants felt their activity benefited their health and wellbeing, with nine in 10 likely to recommend Fortem and take part in another activity.

79 per cent reported enhanced social connection, while more than half said they were extremely likely to seek mental health support if needed.

17 per cent of people who took part in a wellbeing activity went on to seek psychology support from Fortem, while 80 per cent of participants whose symptoms met criteria for PTSD prior to treatment showed improvement that placed them under the threshold for that diagnosis post treatment.

Fortem Australia Managing Director and Co-Founder John Bale says the research was encouraging and shows the organisation’s support for first responders is working.

“First responders often delay seeking help for mental health struggles, and there is still a stigma that gets in the way of seeking support,” said Mr Bale.

“This data that has come out of our program shows that our independent and targeted approach to mental health support for first responders and their families is making a breakthrough and getting people the help they need.

“Our recent funding from the Albanese Government will ensure that we continue to build on the work that we have already done; that these successful programs are rolled out to more parts of the country; and support more of the brave men and women who support us when we need them.”

Media contact: Simon Anderson, M – 0448 601 391 E – media@fortemaustralia.org.au

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