It is increasingly understood that the repeated exposure to trauma impacts on mental health and wellbeing, but the extent organisational structures and working environments contribute to that stress is not widely understood.

The repeated exposure to traumatic events through emergency response is taking a heavy toll on our members.   But what are the other influences that impact on mental health and wellbeing?  We have members that claim they could cope better with the exposures to trauma if they felt valued, worked in a high trust environment and returned to a workplace with high morale.  Understanding all the facets that impact on responder’s mental health is necessary to ensure appropriate and effective assistance can be identified and implemented.

The NZPFU congratulates NZPFU members and career firefighters SFF Josh Darby, SO Jamie Whitehead and Group Manager Blair Kiely for their comprehensive submission which won a Movember grant for research to understand the organisational factors impact on firefighters, and whether positive organisational change could assist firefighters’ wellbeing.  

The Whanaungatanga Programme will first be conducted as a pilot for career firefighters in the Te Hiku region.  There are ongoing discussions for expanding the programme across the country.

The first phase will be a survey and focus groups undertaken with the professional oversight of the Auckland University of Technology.  The NZPFU is confident there is a robust process for the survey and information-gathering phase to ensure any resulting research will be credible and can be relied upon.  There will be security to ensure only those eligible can participate and strict cohort management.  There will be appropriate support in place for those participating and may be affected by responding to survey questions.  The Whanaungatanga Programme will build on that information to determine any organisational factors that may be contributing to distress and distrust, and identify initiatives and practical solutions that can be put in place to minimise or eliminate those contributing factors.

The survey will be conducted in the New Year.   We will be able to provide members more information as the programme develops, including updates on discussions to expand the programme across the country.

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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