Today we hosted another special Associated Agencies Meeting. We carried on our previous discussion around psychological wellbeing for firefighters. Attendees came from UFBA, FRFANZ, FECA, Sports Council, Welfare Society, plus representatives from Fire and Emergency including Brendan Nally (Deputy Chief Executive - People), and firefighter Josh Darby, author of the Why We 360 report and Jim Ryburn, FENZ Welfare Officer from Christchurch.
We were pleased to hear how committed Brendan Nally is to addressing the challenges we face in psychological wellbeing for all personnel. He agreed our people are struggling and that the impact of medical co-response has had a massive impact on our people. We also discussed with Brendan that a range of tools need to be in place to reduce psychological harm which includes eliminating bullying and harassment in the workplace, respect and inclusion initiatives and to create an essential culture change within the organisation through effective leadership. All agencies offered support to help FENZ with this work because they cannot do it alone.
Brendan spoke about the Ministry of Health’s indicators of self-harm with four of these being a direct area of focus for FENZ - these are within the capability for all agencies to better manage, for example;
- eliminating workplace bullying and harassment
- preventing isolating people so they feel excluded and isolated.
- recognising impacts of being exposed to trauma
We discussed the approach that the Associated Agencies Group could take to addressing the challenges experienced by brigades exposed to high levels of trauma.
Everyone in the room was fully committed to supporting Fire and Emergency. Some good work is already underway but more is needed, including more resources in psychological wellbeing, to complement those already in place such as the UFBA psychological wellbeing workshops.
Solutions proposed by the group included resourcing the new organisational structure so there are more welfare officers, psychological wellbeing advisors and support for managers. These roles would support recognising the signs of psychological distress and advising personnel where to refer for help, while providing better management for leaders and accountability to remove bullying and harassment.
Personnel need to feel valued and supported and need to know where to go for help. There were also suggestions relating to the proposed new organisational structure consultation – for example a specific position as Chief Advisor Psychological Wellbeing (currently combined with health and safety) but there is a need to increase emphasis on psychological wellbeing rather than it being perceived as an “add on.”
We discussed some of the immediate things that could be implemented including;
- Develop a “snap rescue’ mobile support unit that travels the country to support brigades experiencing high trauma exposure
- Add a new requirement that all Fire and Emergency ELT papers that propose new responsibilities for firefighters, include the requirement for an assessment about impacts on personnel in relation to psychological wellbeing
- Change the coding in incident reporting systems to gather better evidence/data about trauma exposure
- Help facilitate community and family engagement for personnel affected by trauma
- A process to provide better communications alerts on high trauma exposure callouts
- Communicate the good stories following a traumatic event where the people involved survived.
- Implementing Josh Darby’s recommendations from his Why We 360 study including the Trauma Informed Framework.
Our next meeting is in another few weeks and we hope to increase the amount of traction and support on this important topic so it gets the support it deserves.
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