Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation – in partnership with Flinders University – has secured a $500,000 grant to support the mental health of first responders. 

The grant is part of a new mental health funding program from Movember and The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. 

The project, ‘Protecting Emergency Responders with Evidence-Based Interventions (PEREI)’ will deliver a wellbeing and resilience program to South Australian first responders, and will involve a wellbeing coach who will check in with the individual regularly during the program to boost their support. A wellbeing program for members’ significant others will run parallel to the main program. The project will assist supervisors with ways to promote good mental health, and identify and support members who may have mental health challenges.

The project is one of 14 projects globally to be successful and only one of three in Australia – from more than 147 applications worldwide.

Breakthrough Executive Director John Mannion said the project would help first responders with the unique situations they often face.

“The situations and trauma that first responders and veterans have seen are not things the general population is faced with and the mental health implications are very real, even years later,” said Mr Mannion.

“It’s not just for first responders and veterans, but for their families as well. That’s why it’s vitally important that research is conducted to understand how these traumatic situations impact daily lives.”

Professor Reg Nixon will lead the project, in conjunction with international (Professor Jennifer Wild, Oxford University) and local research collaborators (Dr Dan Fassnacht, Flinders University; Mr. Joep van Agteren, Wellbeing and Resilience Centre at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute), and with partners from the South Australian Police (SAPOL) and the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service (MFS).

Prof Nixon said: “We hope that offering these programs to both first responders and their loved ones will minimise the risk of mental health problems for members, and lead to a better quality of life for all involved.”

Movember launched the Veterans and First Responders Mental Health Grant Program in September 2020, with the aim of identifying promising mental health or suicide prevention programs and collaborating with those projects to demonstrate their effectiveness through rigorous program evaluation.

The team aims to start the programs in 2022.