Mental service questioned
There is new concern that the mental health of Tasmanian emergency service workers and volunteers is not being adequately monitored.
Insiders are speaking out about a lack of funding and staffing within the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) service, which is meant to monitor the impact of critical and traumatic incidents on frontline workers, through a phone service.
Notifications of traumatic jobs go through the Police Radio Dispatch Service, Ambulance Tasmania State Operations Centre, Tasmania Fire Service Communications Centre or via a 24-hour self-referral line, but reports say calls to paramedics or volunteers to check on their mental health after a traumatic event are often missed.
There is some discrepancy about what defines a traumatic event, given the subjective nature of some trauma is difficult to codify.
President of the Police Association of Tasmania, Colin Riley, says officers experience a range of problems with CISM.
“What we've found is, it's a good service but it can be a little bit hit and miss in that sometimes contact will be made by the CISM peer for traumatic events and then other times, there may not be contact made,” he said.
“We've had frontline police officers that would be going through traumatic incidents and scenes and dealing with emotionally charged situations, or even quite violent situations, that wouldn't be contacted.”
Health and police advocates have called on the Tasmanian Government to fund a full-time psychologist for each emergency service, separate to the CISM program.
The Government has responded, saying it is investing $6 million in Tasmania's “first-ever proactive and preventative health and wellbeing program, which supports both the physical and mental health of our emergency services personnel”.
“The wellbeing program will integrate with — and complement — current emergency service wellbeing services and includes, critical incident stress management, clinical psychological services, wellbeing support officers, mental health and wellbeing checks, mental health first-aid training and the employee assistance program.
“In addition, two additional wellbeing support officers have commenced in May, in the north and south, expanding resources for our emergency personnel.”