Understanding resilience amongst emergency workers

Traditionally, researchers have tended to focus on individuals who become unwell or develop symptoms of a mental disorder following a traumatic event or stressful situation.  However, many emergency workers who are exposed to numerous traumatic or stressful situations do not become unwell are able to continue functioning at a high level.  This observation, has led many to focus on the concept of resilience.  Debate surrounds the exact definition of resilience, but it is it is perhaps best conceptualised as a dynamic process which creates a positive adaption to adversity.

Our research team is working together with NSW Police and Fire and Rescue NSW to develop a series of studies examining what factors predict whether an emergency worker will be resilient or not.  This research will consider factors such as personality traits, coping styles, emotional processing, social support and biological measures.  Data is already being collected on a cohort of new fire fighters and we will begin analysing data from NSW Police’s pre-employment screening later in 2015.