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Is your mental health ready for summer?
When we think of the fire season, we think about pre-season briefings, preparedness training, truck inventories and checking our PPC is in good order.
Pager messages will be sent out asking for people’s availability to be on strike team duty, availability rosters will be planned for total fire ban days and then it will be a matter of waiting for the pager to go off.
During this busy time preparing, have you thought about your mental health and wellbeing? What can you do to look after yourself?
Think about this example. When you’re on a plane, the pre-flight briefing always says to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. Compare this with your own experience of being in a role that helps others – are you mentally ready to deal with the challenges of your role?
You will be better able to provide help to others if you’re looking after yourself first and foremost.
Some things that you might consider when looking after your own wellbeing may include: reading that book that has been sitting on the shelf for months; downloading a mindfulness app onto your phone and listening to it for 10 minutes a day; trying out a yoga class or getting your whole brigade involved in a session; or going out for a meal at a restaurant you haven’t tried before or cook a meal with your family.
You could spend an afternoon playing board games, go for a walk or get back on that bike and go for a ride. Or you could do something that you wouldn’t normally do such as going on a picnic, learning a new skill or visiting family or friends you haven’t seen for a while.
If you are operationally busy, consider taking a couple of days off from responding to jobs, especially if you’ve been away on a strike team or attended a local job that you found particularly tough. It’s important to be able to recover both physically and mentally.
It’s OK to have a day here and there when you decide to relax and take time out to recharge your batteries. It’s when these couple of days turn into longer periods that you need to take a moment to check in with yourself; how are you feeling and how are you travelling? If you feel that you’re a bit stuck and it isn’t improving, visit your doctor and have a discussion about how you feel.
It’s important to take action if you:
- are having trouble sleeping
- find yourself reliving a call-out over and over that you have been to
- avoid things you would normally enjoy doing
- are not looking after your personal hygiene
- have a decreased/increased appetite
- are feeling sad or teary
- are forgetting things
- are not leaving the house
- are experiencing issues with drugs and alcohol.
If you notice any of these behaviours in others in your brigade or work location, start a conversation with them with genuine care. Listen to them, encourage action and check in regularly after the conversation.
You may prefer to avoid these discussions, but is that the best option? If you broke your ankle would you avoid visiting the doctor? Probably not. Your mental health is no different – if you notice a change in yourself or those around you, it’s important to have a conversation about your mental health.
Your GP is a good starting point and can put you in touch with other medical professionals such as a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
CFA also has resources available to all staff, volunteers and their immediate families.
Member Assistance Program
Psychologists and counsellors provide professional support to staff, volunteers and their immediate family for work, volunteering, family and relationship issues. This service is free of charge for CFA members and immediate family.
Call 1300 795 711 (24 hours a day/seven days a week).
Peers provide an initial point of contact for support and guidance. Based around each district around the state, they can help members work through issues or put you in touch with further support if needed.
District 2 0418 712 886 District 14 0409 042 258
District 4 0438 666 911 District 15 0428 312 495
District 5 0438 666 911 District 16 0429 619 102
District 6 0408 508 998 District 17 0409 092 478
District 7 0408 508 998 District 18 0418 712 886
District 8 0428 516 671 District 20 0418 712 886
District 9 0429 681 332 District 22 0408 981 406
District 10 0439 629 869 District 23 0408 029 078
District 11 0439 629 869 District 24 0408 029 078
District 12 03 5792 1983 District 27 0439 629 869
District 13 0428 534 393
Chaplains provide non-denominational pastoral care including spiritual, physical, and emotional care and wellbeing support. Call 1800 337 068 (24 hours).
Provided by our Member Assistance Program, Manager Assist provides managers with confidential support and advice regarding people-based issues in a brigade or workplace (for example, mental health concerns or behavioural issues).
Call 1300 795 711.
South West Region: Trudy Deller 0447 513 186
West Region: Michelle Taylor 0400 082 088
North West Region: Chris Bull 0429 072 413
North East Region: Simone Boyd 0429 078 404
South East Region: Anne Duff 0447 331 457
HeadsUP online toolkit
Information and advice on managing mental health and relationship issues. cfa.vic.gov.au/headsup