Movember, in partnership with The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, has recently announced the recipients of their Veterans and First Responders Mental Health Grant Program. This includes $8.3 million AUD in funding towards research projects across Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States to support veterans, first responders and their families.
There is mounting evidence that first responders (firefighters, paramedics and police officers) and military veterans are at increased risk of poor mental health and suicide.
While there are a number of existing programs targeting this group, a 2019 scoping review (commissioned by Movember and conducted by men’s health researcher Dr Don McCreary) found that prevention and early intervention programs either appear to be used without first ensuring that the programs do what they say they are supposed to do, or are implemented differently from what was intended.
Movember’s Veterans and First Responders Mental Health Grant Program was initiated in September 2020 with the aim of identifying promising mental health or suicide prevention programs for veterans and first responders, and collaborating with those projects to demonstrate their effectiveness through rigorous program evaluation.
The following three Australian research projects were successful in receiving funding:
Minds Together, an initiative of Everymind and led by Dr Sally Fitzpatrick, Program Manager at Everymind. Minds Together is an early intervention online program that will be adapted to address the needs of families and friends of paramedics who are experiencing poor mental health.
“Family and friends are often the first to notice signs of mental health concerns in their loved one, so it is vital that we build their knowledge and skills to provide care and support. It is also important that their own wellbeing is supported,” said Dr Sally Fitzpatrick.
Recognise and Respond (R&R), an evidence-based e-learning program from The Black Dog Institute, will be adapted, implemented, and evaluated for veterans. Led by A/Prof Fiona Shand, the project will build on the successful online gatekeeper training Recognise and Respond, which aims to equip community members with the skills to identify and support those who may be at risk of suicide and assist them to seek further help.
PEREI (Protecting Emergency Responders with Evidence-based Interventions) Project, developed by Flinders University in partnership with the Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation, will be adapted to an eight week wellbeing and resilience program, for early-career police and firefighters. The project builds on original research conducted by Oxford University with first responders in the UK.
PEREI will be led by Professor Reg Nixon, who 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.”