Beyond Duty – “We need to narrow the gap between home and work,” a first responder family story.

All ‘Beyond Duty’ artworks by Phillip Marsden and Ken Chung, our digital scribes from KPMG.

Kate Lord is a personal trainer and the wife of a first responder. Her partner, Grant Edwards, experienced PTSD and depression while serving as an Australian Federal Police Officer. Kate is a Fortem Ambassador, and as part of a panel discussion at the recent Beyond Duty Summit, she shared her thoughts on the need for stronger links between home and work… 

I knew something was wrong about 12 months before Grant could accept it, and that was a long 12 months as we tried to find out what was wrong. 

I would ring his colleagues and ask how he was doing at work, and they’d say he was fine.  

But first responders are trained to be non-emotive at work, so they’re brilliant at putting up a façade at work. This makes it hard for their workmates to realise there is a problem.  

It’s at home that people are recognising that (mental health challenges) are happening. 

Without further support, I had to become a Google expert about how to deal with PTSD and depression in our home. I didn’t know what was going on in our marriage. And I felt like I had to be everything to my husband and our daughter, and I very much put myself last. 

I went into survival mode. 

The types of support that families need 

I’d like to see the first responder’s training include three phases of service: first and foremost, you serve yourself to make sure you’re healthy, mentally strong and physically fit; you serve your family; and you serve your community. 

It would have been so helpful for us to have a point of contact: somebody within the agency or department to check in with if things aren’t going well. I’d like to see a system where every member and every family would have a contact, and be aware of who that contact is. Then, if we start to see things at home, we have someone to ring to say that things at home aren’t right. 

That would be a simple way of connecting those of us at home to somebody at the workplace. 

If I’d had that, we would have been more able to take action early. I would have known that somebody else was looking after him at work, and then I wouldn’t have had to be everything. I could have handed some of it over to someone else to help support him. 

That contact would have helped me feel like there was a community around us. 

There’s much more to this conversation, click play to watch…

More about our speakers:

Ben Watson – NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer, Group Captain with The Hills District, Sydney. 

Ben Watson has a 25-year career as a volunteer firefighter, and during the Black Summer Bushfires led hundreds of men and women on the most hazardous fire grounds in NSW. 

Ben has also been an Army Officer for 20 years and lead Australian soldiers into combat on five operational tours. 

Kate Lord – Owner and Personal Trainer, ABC Fitness. 

Kate Lord’s lived experience as the wife of a first responder, inspires a passionate career of advocacy.  

She spent years searching for the help and support her husband and family needed to get strong and stay together.  

She has a Bachelor of Primary Education and is a Physical Education Specialist. 

Kate believes her 10 years as a teacher played a huge part in being able to cope with her husband’s PTSD and get her through the hardest of times. 

From her base on the Gold Coast, Kate takes her passion for mind and body health to the wider community through ABC Fitness.

Cameron Watts – Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Capital Integrity, former Australian Federal Police officer.  

Cameron Watts has played a leading role in the AFP’s fight against foreign bribery and corruption and during his policing career, and presented at major global forums, including the OECD and APEC. 

As the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Capital Integrity, Cameron now helps clients entrench social and governance best practice at the centre of their operations, ensuring the greatest possible protection from risks related to bribery and corruption.

Further recordings from ‘Beyond Duty’ will be published to the Fortem Australia website over the coming weeks. The community is invited to share those recourses widely, be agents for change themselves and keep the conversation and connection going.

Fortem activities, events and community engagements are designed to support the mental fitness of our first responder families. Read more about Our Approach.
Find out Who We Support and share this story to help us reach them.