New study highlights significance of resilience training

Morgan Liotta

21/02/2019 1:17:56 PM

A world-first study shows that online resilience training can make a significant impact to the mental health and wellbeing of emergency workers.

Emergency workers often face challenges that can place them at increased risk of mental health conditions. (Image: QFES Media)
Emergency workers often face challenges that can place them at increased risk of mental health conditions. (Image: QFES Media)

Floods and cyclones in Queensland.
Fires in Tasmania, Western Australia, New South Wales.
Disasters, it seems, are never far away in Australia, and the psychological impacts on the emergency responders who toil on the frontlines can be devastating.
University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Workplace Mental Health Research Team, the Black Dog Institute and Fire and Rescue NSW have worked together to publish a study examining whether an online mindfulness-based program could effectively enhance resilience among first responders to high-risk situations – namely police, fire and ambulance workers.
The findings showed that the training helps to significantly increase psychological resilience and adaptive levels, and boost optimism and healthy coping strategies in emergency workers.
The study also promotes the importance of organisations adopting this type of training to improve and maintain optimum mental health in the workplace.
‘First responders face unique challenges, and it is important they are provided with the very best training and support,’ Sadhbh Joyce, Senior Psychologist and PhD Candidate at UNSW’s Workplace Mental Health Research Team, said.
‘Bolstering resilience is important for all workers; however, it is particularly important for emergency services workers with their challenging roles putting them at greater risk of conditions, including depression and PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder].’
The team behind the research believes it will enable emergency workers to be better-equipped and mentally prepared when facing the many challenges of their demanding roles.
The study involved a cluster of randomised controlled trials conducted across 24 primary fire and rescue stations in New South Wales. Questionnaires were administered immediately after the online training program, and at a six-month follow-up, showing that participants had an average 1.3 increase in their resilience score.
The research team is confident the study will also help to encourage organisations to integrate similar evidence-based training and a rollout across other states, with the aim to overcome some of the barriers organisations face and make it simpler to equip emergency workers with the skills they need.

disasters emergency medicine mental health NSW resilience workplace mental health

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Dr Peter J Strickland   22/02/2019 12:44:57 PM

Resilience training may very well help emergency workers (eg fire, ambulance, police), and also service personnel to adapt to what they see and experience at the time of the incident that they attend. However, this is often only short-term, and certainly does help at the time of the incident to follow logical and correct protocols, but not in the long-term prevention of PTSD. After being in both emergency services and the military, long-term PTSD is not lessened by resilience training occurring in the original training programs.

Sadhbh Joyce   2/05/2019 1:42:54 PM

In response to Dr Strickland's comment above, thank you for your feedback. The research has yet to examine and establish whether mindfulness-based resilience training can protect emergency service personnel from the mental health impacts of exposure to potentially traumatic events on the job. This is a critical area that now needs investigating further. There is however, emerging research ( Joyce et al., 2019; Wild et al., 2016) that low baseline resilience as measured by the Connors Davidson Resilience Scale and the Brief Resilience Scale correctly predicts increases in mental health symptomology (PTSD & Depression)among active first responders and may provide a more proactive means of identifying those personnel who may benefit from early evidence-based interventions that target resilience and other malleable risk factors. Links to research: & https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.go