ESF Research

Stigma and Helpseeking

ESF made a commitment to use funds raised by the 2019 Melbourne Firefighters Stair Climb (MFFSC) to address the issue of stigma and help seeking.

We know that emergency services people who are experiencing sub-clinical mental health concerns (e.g., anger, sleep, relationship difficulties) can be at increased risk of developing mental disorders if they do not recognise their symptoms, seek help early and get the help they need. Stigma including anticipated public stigma, self-stigma, and service concerns, are known to be barriers to help seeking, and there is a strong preference for wanting to self-mange mental health issues.

ESF, in consultation with the Learning Network and key stakeholder, determined that we need to better understand what is driving (or not driving) mental health service utilisation in Victorian Emergency Services. We determined to take a bottom up approach that dives more deeply into what we already know about stigma and help seeking, to focus on identifying what interventions would be of most interest to emergency services personnel who are experiencing sub-clinical mental health issues. 

Phoenix Australia has been appointed to undertake this work with ESF. The project has been cleared by the University of Melbourne low risk ethics committee. Knowledge gained will improve understanding of stigma and help seeking, inform early intervention strategy development and implementation of workplace programs and services.

Project Objective

The overall objective of this project is to develop an evidence-based, deeper understanding of stigma related to mental health and the barriers or enablers to help-seeking.

The Project will engage with emergency management personnel to explore:

  • what people identify as their experience of the earliest signs, symptoms or changes in their mental health and wellbeing
  • what kinds of support they would find most helpful
  • delivered through what modalities, and
  • with what kinds of communications messaging.

Approach for this Study

This study will focus on three groups:

  • Workers who are in transition to retirement
  • Workers with 6 – 10 years’ service
  • Corporate staff

Data will be gathered from six focus groups (two for each cohort) and 15 one-on-one interviews.  This qualitative research is guided by the concept of saturation and as such each cohort group will include enough participants for that to apply.

Work is underway to recruit participants and the research is scheduled to begin in March 2021 with a report due by end May 2021.