A new lifeline is available to Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA) members experiencing psychological distress or symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
The AFPA is currently offering to fund members struggling with their mental health to attend the 5-day Moving Beyond Trauma program at the Quest for Life Centre in Bundanoon, NSW.
The program, developed in part by former police forensics investigator Esther Mckay – who works as Quest’s program development manager – provides evidence-based approaches to recovering your health and wellbeing for first responders and the wider community.
The program’s results show a significant improvement in participants’ mental wellbeing immediately after attendance, with improvement increasing over time.
Esther, who served 17 years in the NSW Police Force as a crime scene investigator before her medical retirement due to PTSD, said, “the most important point to convey to anyone having trouble with their thoughts is to not suffer in silence or try to recover alone.
“Reaching out is the hardest part, so being able to reach out to someone who understands police culture is important.
“People who have been suffering short or long-term can attend the Moving Beyond Trauma program as it’s appropriate for everyone impacted by trauma, but the sooner you book in, the better.
“Once it’s chronic, it’s harder work to achieve optimal health again.”
Managing mental health and wellbeing for Australian Federal Police
The importance of managing mental health and wellbeing for police was highlighted in Beyond Blue’s 2018 National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Police and Emergency Services, Answering the Call.
The study found that police and emergency services workers are more than twice as likely to experience high or very high rates of psychological distress compared to the general population, with PTSD rates as high as 11% for police compared to an estimated 4% in the adult general population.
The study also found that employees who had worked more than 10 years were almost twice as likely to experience psychological distress and six times more likely to experience PTSD symptoms.
People employed in traumatic work environments with repeated daily exposures are at risk of burnout, drug and alcohol dependency, family breakdown, depression, and suicide. These problems often manifest years after the events.
Feedback from former Australian Federal Police member
A previous Moving Beyond Trauma participant and former AFP International Command member who wished to remain anonymous encouraged other former or serving AFP officers experiencing distress to book a place.
“If you are offered a position on the program, take it.”
“It really was the first time that I had been able to just concentrate on myself and really realise how unwell I was.
“You will be scared and think that no one understands what you’re going through, but the people at Quest for Life understand and can help.
“Don’t give up. Get out of the house. I know it’s hard and you want to stay home and hide but you will not recover if you do that. You need to get back out into the community and try new things.”
Former NSW Police officer Bob Simpson
Another previous program participant, Bob Simpson, whose 20-year career spanned general duties and proactive policing with NSW Police, said he hoped any AFPA members struggling with their thoughts would take up the offer of free attendance.
“I’d like to see a better future for other police,” Bob said.
Bob, who medically retired due to PTSD several years after a horrific workplace incident, said he arrived at Quest after years of feeling angry, hopeless, and suicidal.
“To be honest I didn’t want to be a part of this world anymore and came close to checking out a couple of times. I absolutely did not want to be on this earth.
“The reality is police often deal with sadness and sad situations.
“If we can get to serving police before they fall into the abyss, I absolutely believe that doing the trauma course during your career as a frontline worker – rather than post career – can increase your career on the ground by 5 to 10 years.”
Today, Bob works for Quest doing follow up aftercare with recent participants to check in on their recovery after their attendance, a job he chose to allow him to continue to serve the community.
Contact the AFPA, Quest for Life, or Esther Mckay to enquire about attending Moving Beyond Trauma.
Read more about the Moving Beyond Trauma program.
Read more about Bob Simpson’s 2019 charity bike ride across Australia to raise awareness about current and former police living with PTSD, which raised funds to support Quest for Life’s Moving Beyond Trauma program.
Quest for Life Foundation:
Call: 1300 941 488
Call: 0419 460 530
Need help now?
Lifeline: 13 11 14
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
Emerge & See NSW – Private Facebook group for both serving and retired members of the NSW Emergency Services living with occupational PTSD.
Emerge & See ACT & NSW – Public Facebook page for both serving and retired members of the ACT & NSW Emergency Services living with occupational PTSD.