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First responders from across Australia have come together for an unprecedented Roundtable discussion, aiming to improve the prevention and treatment of Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) suffered in the line of duty and to ensure better support for those recovering from it.

The Roundtable in Canberra was attended by Police, Ambulance, Fire, Emergency Service and Mental Health representatives, as well as medical practitioners and psychologists, first responder industrial associations and a range of support agencies.

It was convened by Australia21 and Fearless Outreach, a charity that works with people living with the consequences of PTSD – especially the families of people who experience it.

“We all recognised that more needs to be done. We have to find more effective preventive, treatment and recovery strategies to reduce the extent and severity of PTSD,” said Australia21 Emeritus Director Mick Palmer, a former Federal and NT Police Commissioner.

PTSD is caused by exposure to violence, trauma and shock.

First responders are at the frontline, putting themselves in harm’s way to protect the rest of the community – all of us. On the scene at accidents and emergencies and in other dangerous situations, many are exposed to violence, trauma and shock that can trigger PTSD. So Australia21 believes the community owes it to first responders to make sure PTSD prevention, treatment and recovery options are the best we can make them.

“There was a clear and demonstrable commitment by all agencies represented at the Roundtable – not simply the three police agencies who sponsored the forum – to engage in frank and open debate,” said Mr Palmer.

The Roundtable was held under Chatham House Rule, allowing comments to be recorded but without identification of the individuals who made them. So the day-long discussion was open and honest.

Moving accounts were shared by people damaged by traumatic experiences during the course of duty. The organisations represented were keen to improve outcomes for their employees. Some very useful recommendations were proposed.

“Australia21 participants were impressed by the willingness of people at all levels to share their stories and engage in the effort to find better strategies for early identification and treatment,” said Chair of Australia21, Paul Barratt.

More people wanted to take part in the Roundtable than could be accommodated, indicating a level of interest and support that Australia21 hopes to harness to the benefit of all.

Australia21’s volunteer Board and small staff are now drafting a Roundtable report from the transcripts, submissions and recommendations. After review by the participants, it will be released to the public.

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