Over 500 people registered for Beyond Duty Summit – will your first responder family be there?

The mental health and wellbeing of our first responder community will take centre stage this week, with over 500 people putting time aside to engage in a dynamic, free online summit this Thursday (2 September).

Researchers, leaders, staff, volunteers, families and communities connected to first responder agencies will develop the conversation around the theme, ‘Beyond Duty – what is the bigger picture in first responder wellbeing?’   

The summit will canvass research and lived experience exploring a ‘whole of person’ approach to mental health and fitness - during and post service, with a special focus on the family.

With registrations racing past 500, the response so far suggests the time is right for this powerful conversation, but more so for action to address the issues and needs that will be highlighted.

“Every day, more than 300,000 first responders keep our communities safe,” says John Bale, Managing Director, Fortem Australia. 

“We know that more than half of all emergency responders are deeply impacted by the traumas they face in the course of their duties. 

“The first responder community has higher rates of psychological distress, higher rates of diagnosis for mental health conditions, and higher rates of suicidal thinking and planning than the general adult population. 

“The Beyond Duty summit is another step in recognising these significant community issues and taking action.” 

The summit will run over three sessions and is attracting significant interest as more and more people become aware of how trauma exposure is impacting on first responders and their families.  

“The pandemic is adding further pressure, a recent survey of 1500 first responders by Charles Sturt University showed rates of severe depression and anxiety was 10 and 4 times higher, respectively, than the general population,” Mr Bale says.  

Beyond Duty aims to create a stronger focus on the family and social networks of emergency service workers; highlighting the protective influence that strengthening these bonds can have.  

“Understanding the bigger picture in first responder wellbeing is another step towards addressing the higher rates of psychological distress we see in this important community,” Mr Bale says.    

The summit will run from 8:30am on 2 September in three free online sessions spread across the day. 

Some of the highlights include: 

Graham Ashton and Dr Liz Sutton, Graham is the former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Liz is a Research Fellow at Monash University. For the first time they will reflect on their 25 year lived experience as a first responder family – the positive and negative and what they learnt along the way about the wellbeing needs of their community during and post service.  

Dr David Lawrence, from the University of Western Australia. David will share the lessons learned from the “Answering the Call’ and ‘After the Fires’ research, focusing on the importance of workplace culture, family and community in supporting the wellbeing of emergency services personnel.  

Panel Discussion: Suicide in the First Responder Community: Lived Experience, Risk Factors and Prevention. Shayne Connell, CEO, LivingWorks Australia, Dr Jacqueline Drew, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University, and Tara Lal, Senior Firefighter, Fire & Rescue NSW; PhD Candidate, University of New England. 

“Understanding the bigger picture in first responder wellbeing is another step towards addressing the higher rates of psychological distress we see in this important community,” Mr Bale says.   

“The actions that follow are critical in building health and resilience in people and places across Australia.”  

Fortem activities, events and community engagements are designed to support the mental fitness of our first responder families. Read more about Our Approach.
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