They’re the first to respond to our calls for help and to arrive when we’re at our most vulnerable, but attending accidents and natural disasters can be confronting and traumatic for first responders.
That’s why a not-for-profit organisation that supports the mental health and wellbeing of first responders and their families is on a mission to get Australians to give back on Wednesday, 9 June, by saying two simple words: thank you.
Fortem Australia is returning for a second year to partner with emergency response services to drive ‘Thank a First Responder Day’.
While the event was held in major Australian cities – including Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney – in 2020, this will be the first year regional NSW towns such as Yass are involved.
The charity is asking residents and businesses of Yass to help ‘paint the town teal’ on Thank a First Responder Day, and will be hosting a free breakfast for local first responders and their families.
“I think Thank a First Responder Day is especially important for our regional emergency services because they are generally less resourced, which means they show up to more calls that put them under a significant amount of stress and trauma,” said Fortem Australia community engagement coordinator Gen Lindsay.
“And I think it’s really important for people to take a step back and recognise that even though it’s their job, they’re still putting themselves on the line to serve and protect their community.”
Yass Valley Council has been among the first to raise its hand to help the cause by agreeing to change the lights at Yass Soldiers’ Memorial Hall to teal on the special day.
Cafe Dolcetto, on the town’s main street, is also contributing by providing the free breakfast, while the Two Little Pigs coffee cart, which is run by local police officers, will provide the coffee.
Beyond Blue’s national survey of the mental health and wellbeing of emergency services personnel, ‘Answering the call’, found first responders are more than twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts and to experience high psychological distress.
Furthermore, first responder families are often heavily impacted by these mental health challenges.
However, research also shows that feeling appreciated and valued is important to our wellbeing, which is why saying thank you goes a long way.
Fortem Australia was founded in mid-2019 by a group of people who had previously worked at Soldier On Australia and seen firsthand how veterans and their families benefited from social connection and mental health support.
After seeing the trauma endured by first responder families from the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020, those people decided to launch Fortem Australia to fill a need for first responders and their families.
They use research and best practice to develop wellbeing activities, community engagement and psychological support that aids the mental health and wellbeing of first responders and their families.
On Thank a First Responder Day, on 9 June, all Australians are asked to post messages of thanks on their social media channels using the hashtags #ThankAFirstResponder and #PowerOfThanks.
Download free digital tiles, posters and more for use on social media and elsewhere here.