Understanding the work

Paramedics and first responders

The nature of emergency services work means our paramedics and volunteer first responders are more likely than the general population to be exposed to potentially traumatic events. They may be repeatedly exposed to death, violence, natural disasters, at risk of harm to themselves or their colleagues, or other challenging situations that may potentially cause indirect trauma. These experiences can increase the risk of developing a mental health condition or make an underlying issue worse.

The roles of Ambulance Victoria employees also come with organisational stressors such as long hours, demanding work schedules and being rostered to work at times that others usually spend with their family and friends, such as weekends and public holidays. This can lead to social isolation and relationship difficulties.

Like any other person, our employees are not immune to developing a mental health condition. Across the different emergency services organisations in Australia, paramedics are most commonly at high risk of burnout, stress-related anxiety and depression. Without help, these ongoing conditions may ead to risky behaviours, such as substance misuse or self-harm, and can increase a person’s risk of suicide.

While this may sound concerning, it’s important to remember that emergency response work is both challenging and rewarding. Most emergency service workers handle the demands of the job well. Given the nature of the work, it may be that naturally resilient people are more likely to choose to become paramedics or first responders in the first place. Additionally, emergency service organisations like Ambulance Victoria have positive attributes that can help protect the mental health and wellbeing of workers. A culture of camaraderie and loyalty is common in these organisations, and many workers feel a strong sense of purpose and connection with the community in their role. 

While this may sound concerning, it’s important to remember that emergency response work is both challenging and rewarding. Given the nature of the work, it may be that naturally resilient people are more likely to choose to become paramedics or first responders in the first place. Additionally, emergency services organisations like Ambulance Victoria have positive attributes that can help protect the mental health and wellbeing of workers. A culture of camaraderie and loyalty is common in these organisations, and many workers feel a strong sense of purpose and connection with the community in their role. 

Ambulance Victoria is highly committed to promoting and providing a mentally healthy workplace for its workers. It is the first ambulance organisation in Australia to launch a Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy in 2016, with a new strategy now underway for 2020. 

Key points:

  • Emergency services workers are more likely to be exposed to traumatic events. This can increase their risk of developing mental health issues.
  • Organisational stressors such as long hours and shift work can also impact mental health and put strain on relationships. 
  • First responders are at high risk of burnout, and stress-related anxiety and depression.
  • There are also many positives of being a first responder, including a sense of purpose and connection.
  • Organisations can make a big difference to their workers’ mental health, and Ambulance Victoria is committed to providing genuine mental health and wellbeing support and services that make a difference. 

Next up

Family violence

Sometimes when people are struggling they become more irritable and angry. However, there is a big difference between feeling angry a lot of the time and being violent. Sometimes people might not recognise aggression and violence when it is happening.

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