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Movember funding given to RCSI to support first responders mental health

RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences has received funding of 267K from the charity Movember. It is to improve mental health support for first responders.

The funding, part of a €5m Veterans and First Responders Mental Health Grant Program, was awarded to the SAFER Families/Friends research project. It is led by the RCSI SIM Centre for Simulation Education and Research. Republic of Ireland only selected this project for this funding.

They are working with various community partners, including Mental Health Ireland and Dublin Civil Defence. The project will explore how family members and friends can best support their first responder’s mental health.

First responders deal with stressful events as part of their daily activities. Research showed that they are more likely to experience a range of mental health issues. This is includes depression, PTSD, substance abuse in addition to suicidal thoughts/behaviour. The lack of resources and stigma associated with seeking help has therefore led to access being limited. First responders often rely on the ‘social support’ of their families and close friends. The SAFER Families/Friends project aims to equip families and friends of 100 first responders with skills. The skills it should help to both recognise the signs and symptoms of stress. They will also provide a basic helpful intervention to their first responder.

Through the project intervention, participants will engage in simulated scenarios. Therefore they will learn how to deal with the aftermath of critical incidents. This will be while specifically providing social support in addition to psychological first aid. The training will be facilitated by the RCSI SIM Centre, which embodies deep expertise in simulation-based experiential learning, communication training, assessment, engaging with simulated participants and a track record of impactful healthcare education research.


Support of the project

Professor Walter Eppich, RCSI Chair of Simulation who is also the project lead, commented: “Extreme situations can be distressing and difficult for individuals to process. Early intervention approaches reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Access to the available support services remains limited. We would like to build on the social support that already exists. This is to help combat the after-effects of these stressful events. This project also aims to support first responder resilience and wellbeing. This is so they can continue to function in the service of public safety.”

Michelle O’Toole is co-leading the project. She is Senior Simulation Researcher at RCSI SIM, a former fire fighter and also a advanced paramedic with the Dublin Fire Brigade.

Movember, which runs its fundraising drive in November each year, seeks to ‘change the face of men’s health on a global scale’. Movember and its partners, including The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, provide funding to research projects all over the world. This includes the areas of mental health and suicide prevention, in addition to prostate cancer and testicular cancer.

Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention at Movember spoke about the goals for the programme. Brendan Maher said, “We owe an enormous amount to our veterans and first responder communities. Through this initiative, Movember wants to help our grant funding partners prove their programmes are positively impacting mental health outcomes. We want to build evidence for programmes that truly make a difference to the lives of these men and families.”

Recruitment for SAFER Families/Friends is underway. Therefore the project is expected to start in the first quarter of 2022. For more information, contact Michelle O’Toole.

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