There is a call for better mental health support for first responders leaving employment (Beyond Blue 2018; Senate Inquiry 2019; Vic. Police 2019) and McCleary (2019) with recommendations for better targeted programs for this cohort.
Australian Defence Force data points to significant mental health decline post transition. There is no validated local data on emergency service workers in transition but ESFs engagement with agencies and investigative study indicates a clear gap between what agencies are offering and what first responders want to help prepare for transition and support their mental health (Conroy et al 2019).
Current agency activity focuses on financial preparedness, whereas transition is a complex and potentially disruptive experience requiring planning and support in a range of social and psychological dimensions. It is a significant moment in life that requires special attention to encourage men, in particular, to stay healthy in all areas of their life and socially connected.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has implemented a strategy based on comprehensive research to lessen the burden of mental illness associated with transition. Through a program called Well Beyond ESF will apply the learnings from the ADF Transitions program to an emergency service cohort based on cultural, operating and gender similarities.
Well Beyond will provide a proactive, holistic, evidence informed, leading practice approach to address the existing gap in support and assist people across the emergency services sector transition ‘well’ from service. As a pilot program it will be co-designed with end-users to ensure it is needs-based and gender sensitive to promote good mental health and wellbeing for different experiences of transition.
Agencies have nominated working group representatives and they will meet early in 2021 to begin to develop the Well Beyond program.