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Fire and Rescue NSW translates research into better mental health for workers

Published: 12th June 2019

Fire and Rescue NSW is taking a leading role in protecting the mental health of its workforce, with today’s (12/06/2019) rollout of the e-learning program RAW Mind Coach. The new evidence-based program was developed following a successful trial, undertaken in collaboration with the University of NSW and the Black Dog Institute.

RAW Mind Coach has been designed to enhance resilience, develop mindfulness and equip personnel with a range of essential psychological skills. Recently published results of the trial, undertaken with 143 firefighters, show an impressive range of mental health benefits. These include significant increases in psychological resilience, mindfulness, optimism and the use of healthy coping strategies.

The research study and rollout of RAW Mind Coach are part of a concerted effort within Fire and Rescue NSW to protect and enhance the psychological health of its workforce. “In developing our mental health strategy, we realised the importance of taking a proactive, preventative approach. We are proud to be able to translate research into real action and ensure our firefighters are equipped with the right skills and strategies,” says Manager Health Promotion, Brendan Mott.

Developing mindfulness is a key focus of the interactive 10 session program. Through RAW Mind Coach, participants learn strategies to help them when faced with difficult thoughts, uncomfortable emotions and times of high stress. The program also promotes help-seeking behaviour, encourages the development of healthy coping strategies and allows firefighters to develop their own personalised plan of action for especially tough days on the job.

Psychologist Sadhbh Joyce conducted the research trial as part of her PhD studies, before developing the RAW Mind Coach program. “We want research to lead to real change and that’s why it is fantastic Fire and Rescue NSW has stepped up and taken a leading role, championing a program which will deliver widespread benefits,” says Joyce.

As well as supporting firefighters, RAW Mind Coach is now also being used to enhance resilience among workers across a range of other high stress roles. In 2018 the program was rolled out across NSW Ambulance and to Reuters journalists worldwide.

Black Dog Institute Chief Psychiatrist, Associate Professor Samuel Harvey, has closely overseen the research project and the development of RAW Mind Coach. He says “our work with Fire and Rescue NSW presents a great example of what can be achieved through collaboration. It is gratifying to see research translated into an evidence-based product, which will directly support those who play such a valuable role in our community.”