Australia has launched a new initiative to provide additional mental health support to emergency workers through the establishment of the National Emergency Workers Support Service (NEWSS). The Australian government has provided $4 million to the Black Dog Institute to create and deliver the NEWSS, which expands on the existing National Bush Fire Support Service to provide mental health services to all emergency services workers who respond to national disasters, such as bushfires, floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
NEWSS will provide emergency workers with access to an online mental health self-assessment and triage service, and they will be able to receive up to 12 free sessions with a clinical psychologist either face-to-face or via telehealth. This tailored approach will make it easier for essential workers to find, navigate and determine their eligibility for support and appropriate resources.
According to statistics, 39 per cent of emergency responders are diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their life, and they are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at a rate two times higher than the general population. The service will also provide specialist mental health training to GPs and other health care professionals to help provide appropriate support and referral options to emergency service workers.
Minister Murray Watt and Assistant Minister Emma McBride expressed gratitude for the emergency workers’ tireless efforts and emphasised the importance of supporting their mental health.
NEWSS aims to provide essential workers with the necessary support and resources to address mental health issues resulting from their emergency response efforts.