If life is in danger
Beyond Blue 24/7 crisis support
Fortem Australia during business hours
“I think of Fortem’s activities as a way to thank my family for allowing me to go and help.”
FORMER QLD POLICE OFFICER
As a former police officer who lives with a mental health diagnosis as a direct result of first responder employment, I am confident that my journey would not have been as lonely or jarring had Fortem been around during my struggles in 2013, and my subsequent transition out of service in mid-2015. There is also a strong chance that I may have received the supports required to recover from my mental health injury and continue to serve the Queensland community as a police officer had Fortem been available at the time.
I am also confident that my marriage wouldn’t have fractured to the extent that it did. It’s fair to say that my police career was a key ingredient in the implosion of our relationship. It took a lot of time and care to rebuild our relationship back to where it is. I’m confident that had Fortem’s services been available at the time, my wife and I would have received vital opportunities to connect with each other and learn about the family impact of first responder work. Helping to build healthy and connected first responder families is so important, and it’s seldom done well. To me, Fortem’s family-first approach is the most important aspect of the work they do.
Fortem’s independence from first responder agencies is also quite significant. During my mental health challenges as a police officer, I was reluctant to seek internal supports offered, as they were often viewed as inadequate and that it was a career ending move to access these services. As a result of the shortcomings of internal agency services, I was desperately searching for confidential, external community support, but this did not exist at the time of my mental health diagnosis. From my perspective, reputable and independent support organisation did not exist until Fortem Australia was founded.
Fortem Australia is a critically important organisation performing lifesaving mental health and wellbeing supports to first responder families across Australia. I am highly passionate about Fortem Australia’s work because it exists to provide the support that I once wished I had received. The assistance that every first responder deserves. And it’s only right that this support is extended to families, who are often forgotten in terms of support services. Family is everything, and Fortem Australia recognises this by ensuring that family is at the heart of everything they do.
“Second to none. Professional, inspiring, and above all, lifesaving.”
SENIOR CONSTABLE, QUEENSLAND POLICE SERVICE
– LATISHA WHALAN
I was sworn in on the 25th of October 2012. I’ve worked 90969 hours, 56 minutes, and 6 seconds. With a large chunk of that devoted to training, majority of that being on the job. The training I undertake regularly is vital to survival, often keeping me, my colleagues, and my community safe.
We ‘kit up’ with tools each shift so we can protect and serve our community effectively however we often forget the ultimate tool, our ability to protect and serve our mental health.
Terminating our call sign historically marks the end of a shift however sometimes the jobs we attend that shift don’t finish as we go home, they haunt us as if they replay over in our unconscious sometimes conscious minds. Ultimately bleeding into the ways we respond towards every aspect of our lives and how we unconsciously respond to our very own loved ones.
Fortem Australia offers the training, tools, and support for mental health survival. With rates of burn out and mental health so prevalent within the first responder family, non-for-profit organisations like Fortem Australia provide integral support that almost should be part of our training. Their support should be offered much like a tool required for ‘kitting up’ and preparing for a shift.
Fortem Australia also recognises the lack of support for the loved ones of our first responders and uniquely offers the same love and support to them.
As a current sworn officer, partner, and mother I have come to the realisation that first responding inherently becomes more than a job, it’s often a way of life that our family members didn’t sign up for. The price we pay to serve our community almost always comes at a cost we didn’t realise, and with time, inflation is inevitable.
Fortem Australia simply help pay for a portion of that ‘cost’ by supporting with the inevitable mental health journey of a first responder. Fortem Australia is like an insurance we didn’t know we needed until we really needed them.
“This is such a valuable service that has helped me so much.”
DEPUTY CAPTAIN, ACT RURAL FIRE SERVICE
As an RFS volunteer, I did 250 hours during the Black Summer bushfires, and I experienced many traumatic moments. The support provided by Fortem in the years that followed, even though I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, was vital. So many great activities to keep me active and connected.
“You have made me realise that it is okay to ask for help.”
PARAMEDIC, NSW AMBULANCE
First responders are very private people – you don’t share a lot with your world, and you don’t talk about it, you just keep it inside. This is the first time I have really been connected to other services because of Fortem. I didn’t realise how well Fortem was involved with police and then all of a sudden, out of the woodwork, I got my local police officers inviting me to join their running group.
I thought I was very solo; I had a couple of paramedics that I would run with every now and then, but now it is very exciting to feel this level of community and camaraderie as everyone is now supporting me from other services in my local area.
“You understand the work environments and unique challenges we face.”
FIREFIGHTER, PEER SUPPORT OFFICER, AUTHOR AND RESEARCHER
– TARA LAL AFSM
Fortem Australia enable first responders to feel understood, to feel heard, cared for and supported in a way that we never have before. As a firefighter with over 18 years’ experience on the frontline and as a volunteer peer support officer I have witnessed and experienced myself the profound physical, emotional, and relational impact of our work. We serve our communities because we care, because we hold a deep desire to alleviate the suffering of others and to keep our communities safe. It does however, come at a cost.
My doctoral research illustrates the unique nature of our work, our organisations, and our cultures. As one of the firefighters I spoke to said, ‘It changes you being a firefighter’. He went on to speak about his experience of seeking support from an external psychologist, ‘They just didn’t understand. I didn’t want to have to explain what I do’. He never went back. We don’t want to speak to someone that doesn’t speak our language or understand how being a firefighter changes you and changes your way of being in the world. The lack of cultural understanding and a contextualised approach fractures the connection we so desperately seek and need. By the same token, firefighters rarely seek help within our organisations for fear it will impact the job we love; the job that defines our identity and our sense of meaning. It’s who we are. So, we suffer in silence. Our relationships breakdown, we develop destructive ways to cope with the cumulative nature of the stress we are exposed to through our line of work. We just need to feel safe, cared for, understood, and supported. We need that for our families too. Fortem offers that and we are forever grateful. Please help Fortem to protect and support us as we protect you.
FORMER WA POLICE OFFICER
After 16 years in policing, my mental health took a downturn, and I needed help. I was diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety. I knew that I didn’t have support and I felt trapped. What could a police officer with 16 years’ experience do outside of policing?
That was until a close friend introduced me to Fortem. I had hit a professional rock-bottom and I realised something had to change to make me a better person, a better mother, and a better partner. From the moment I spoke to the team at Fortem I felt at ease. They were warm and approachable and shared their experiences. They listened to what I had to say, offered advice, and made me realise my worth as a human being and highlighted that my vast skill base was transferrable. Fortem helped me understand how I was feeling and that there was light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t have to be unhappy. Thank you Fortem. The service you provide is invaluable.