First responders gather to launch comprehensive PTSD report

When Helping Hurts: PTSD in First Responders

This is a joint media release from the Australian Federal Police and Australia21.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) today joins with think tank Australia21 and support service FearLess Outreach to launch Australia’s first report on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among Australia’s first-responders.

The report, When Helping Hurts: PTSD in First Responders, explores more effective ways of preventing the debilitating consequences of traumatic stress, and improving mental health outcomes for front-line responders.

The report and its recommendations are the result of extensive research and high-level roundtable discussions over a year involving federal, state and territory police, along with fire, ambulance and emergency services, defence personnel, health care professionals, mental health support services, specialist academics and media first responders .

Australia21 Chair Paul Barratt said the report highlights that three to four million Australians live with PTSD, or have family affected by it.

“PTSD has far reaching impacts across the entire community and it will take a whole-of-community approach to achieve better outcomes for those living with PTSD. This report shows the need for cultural change across the community, along with legislative change and improvements at a managerial and medical level,” he said.

“We need cultural change to acknowledge that it’s a normal consequence to be affected by what first responders see and do in their line of work, and that it’s normal to seek support if you feel you need it, and it’s normal to get better as a result of treatment.”

Australian Federal Police Acting Commissioner Leanne Close welcomed the report, which was sponsored by the AFP, Victoria Police and Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services.

“The AFP has no greater asset than its people. This report acknowledges the work our men and women do to help the community can harm and traumatise. It can impact their health, their wellbeing and the friends and family around them,” Acting Commissioner Close said.

“As leaders of impacted organisations where our staff are subject to inherently dangerous and traumatic work, we are committed to continuing to improve our preventative measures and response to mental health in our workforces. Many of the 31 recommendations and nine key priorities align with the work the AFP is already doing to improve the overall wellbeing of our members.”

Former AFP Commissioner Michael Palmer said the collaboration on the project was full, frank, open and courageous.

“There was no turf protection, defensiveness, blame or ‘ball passing’, just a commitment to fully explore the reality of the current state of play and what needs to be done to better prepare, protect and manage the people exposed to the inevitable reality of trauma in the workplace, as part of the job we expect and need them to do,” he said.

Media enquiries
AFP National Media: (02) 6131 6333

Australia21: Director and Communications Manager Deborah Rice - 0414 746 648

An advance copy of When Helping Hurts is available at:


Australia21 is an independent not for profit think tank, established in 2001. Australia21 commissions, conducts and reviews research into complex social issues confronting Australia in a rapidly changing global environment. Its aim is to foster fresh thinking about public policy and provide evidence-based solutions to difficult problems, shaping the best possible future for our nation.

FearLess Outreach Australia is a charity that works with people living with the consequences of PTSD, especially the families of those who experience it. 

If you or anyone you know needs help, you can also contact:

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36

Headspace on 1800 650 890

National Security Hotline

Visit the AFP Futures Centre

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

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