First Responder Resilience Program

Delivering vital mental health support to our brave volunteers

The past four years have been tough on our emergency volunteer first responders. Fire and floods have taken a toll, but there is light on the horizon.

Ordinary Courage has partnered with the SES Volunteers Association to deliver a mental health and safety program, which is supported by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

The First Responder Resilience Program (FRRP) is designed to:

  • build sustainable mental health leadership capability
  • minimise the negative psychological impact of major emergency and disaster events
  • increase individual psychological resilience in our volunteers

Ordinary Courage GM Jim Smith AFSM, who volunteers with the NSW Rural Fire Service, says the program is much-needed and long overdue.

“Volunteers are regularly exposed to different types of trauma, from witnessing distressing events to putting their own lives  in significant danger,” Jim says. “This trauma is compounded by they fact they’re often engaged in high stress situations over prolonged periods and, because they are volunteering in their local communities, they often know the people who are caught in the disastrous situations that they are responding to.”

Data shows emergency service volunteers exhibit greater negative mental health complaints than their professional counterparts.

“While there are range of programs to support professional first responders, there is very little support for our volunteers,” Jim says.  “There’s a massive void and I’m delighted Ordinary Courage has the opportunity to fill it as we work in collaboration with the SESVA to deliver the program.  Our volunteers have given so much, particularly during the challenging past four years and the FRRP is a way we can give back to them.”

Jim and the Ordinary Courage team are visiting community volunteers throughout NSW in the coming months to explain what FRRP is about, what the training involves and the evidence-based positive impact it can have on individuals, organisations and communities.

“The beauty of this program is that it’s tailor made for first responders – they’re the people on the front line and we’re keen for their valuable feedback in the coming months,” Jim says. “The FRRP training component kicks off in February and, based on our significant experience in delivering similar programs, we expect to see the impact it is making quite quickly, within a couple of months, as leaders adopt and implement the tools that the program offers.”

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