Fire Service Psychology Association urges for a comprehensive psychological support framework for firefighters

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The Fire Service Psychology Association (FSPA) has issued a call for the advancement of psychological support and resources dedicated to fire service professionals.

This comes as a response to the increasing demand within the profession for a well-structured psychological support system akin to what is available for the police and military.

Psychological support needed in the form of education and services

The FSPA is championing a wide-ranging support system that encompasses psychological education and services specifically catered to firefighters.

In their view, training should not be limited to technical skills, but should also aim at understanding the psychological implications of their work.

Such knowledge would serve to lessen the negative aspects of their job, inhibit psychological degradation, and make clear when professional help is required.

The essential role of fire officers in psychological support

The association is acknowledging the crucial part fire officers play in fostering mental health within their teams.

To aid in this, the FSPA underlines the importance of providing training to assist officers in forming psychologically safe work environments.

They highlight the need for culturally adept clinicians who are familiar with the distinctive difficulties encountered by firefighters.

FSPA also advocates for the establishment of pathways for psychologists to attain these competencies, to more effectively meet the demands of the national fire service.

Furthermore, they emphasise the need for financial support towards ongoing psychological research targeting firefighter populations.

They draw attention to the fact that most of the existing literature is drawn from international sources, demonstrating a demand for increased local research and specialised publications like a Journal for Fire Service Psychology.

Five crucial projects to enhance psychological support

Outlined by the association are five key initiatives:

  1. Assessment: Formulation of pre-employment psychological standards, yearly behavioural health screening standards, and department-wide anonymous organisational assessments to improve understanding of the mental health difficulties within the force.
  2. Workforce Development: Cultivating culturally proficient psychologists and clinical interventionists for the fire service.
  3. Specialised Training and Access for Departments: Offering both basic psychological preparation and advanced psychological training for firefighters and officers.
  4. Suicide Intervention: Supporting an ongoing national project of psychological autopsies to identify common factors among firefighters who have died by suicide.
  5. Trauma Risk Management: Moving from the outdated Critical Incident Stress Management model to the Psychological First Aid model and training peer support teams to spot mental health risks.

This endeavour exemplifies FSPA’s dedication to protecting the mental health of our courageous firefighters who put their lives on the line every day to ensure our safety.

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