A national network providing support to police experiencing trauma should be established to better deal with officers’ mental health, the national police unions has said.
In its submission to a senate inquiry examining the mental health of emergency workers, the Police Federation of Australia recommended an independent service provider network be set up in every state and territory specifically for police officers suffering trauma.
Writing in the federation’s submission, its chief executive Mark Burgess said the service would focus on early intervention, diagnosis and treatment.
“Such a provision would need access to dedicated hospitals or potentially separate wings of an existing hospital,” Mr Burgess said.
“It would be beneficial to have such facilities for police, as it separates them from patients who might have had negative interactions with police due to their own mental health issues.”
The federation’s submission, made on behalf of more than 62,000 police officers across the country, also recommended the welfare of officers should also be considered in coronial inquiries.
Mr Burgess said inquests into incidents such as the 2014 Lindt cafe siege saw major stress for officers and their families.
“The Lindt cafe coronial inquiry was the exception rather than the norm, however, since that inquiry, we have witnessed inquiries in other states that appear to have little concern for the welfare of police appearing before them,” he said.
“In doing so, they have caused major stress for officers involved and their families, even when it was evident that none of the officers had acted inappropriately.”
Among the other recommendations was the mental health and welfare of emergency workers be brought up as an agenda item by the Council of Australian Governments.
In its own submission to the inquiry, the AFP also said a national dialogue should be started about the mental health of first responders.
“There is a clear need for first responders to have direct and timely access to mental health support, in a coordinated manner,” the submission said.
“A federal framework on first responder mental health that provides for best practices, research, education, awareness and treatment would greatly benefit Australia’s first responder community.”
A recent report conducted by the Phoenix Australia Centre for Post-traumatic Mental Health found almost one in four AFP officers suffer from psychological distress, while almost one in 10 has had suicidal thoughts.
The AFP-commissioned research found many officers were reluctant to seek help for mental health issues, with many indicating they were concerned about it impacting on their career.
The submission to the inquiry from the federal police also called for changes to the workers’ compensation process for officers submitting claims for mental health conditions.
“The AFP workforce is reliant on Commonwealth workers’ compensation arrangements to support non-liability health care for mental health conditions,” the submission said.
“This process requires police to ‘prove’ their condition is related to work and is arguably adversarial, can exacerbate illness and cause lengthy delays, often resulting in delayed access to treatment and poorer health conditions.”
Public hearings are scheduled in coming weeks, with a final report due to be handed to parliament by December.
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Originally Published by the Canberra Times, continue reading here.