Risk of psychological distress, pervasiveness of stigma and utilisation of support services: Exploring paramedic perceptions


first responder
mental health

How to Cite

Mackinnon K, Everett T, Holmes L, Smith E, Mills B. Risk of psychological distress, pervasiveness of stigma and utilisation of support services: Exploring paramedic perceptions. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine [Internet]. 2020Jun.26 [cited 2023Jan.31];17. Available from: https://ajp.paramedics.org/index.php/ajp/article/view/764



Paramedics are exposed to significant and cumulative stressors that contribute to poor mental health. The provision of effective and engaging mental health support is essential in improving overall wellbeing. Many ambulance services have adapted their available support services to reflect this need. However, there remains limited research into the perceived efficacy of these services and barriers that limit uptake from paramedics.


Paramedics and ambulance volunteers from Australia and New Zealand were invited to complete an online survey consisting of a series of Likert-scale and open-ended response questions. The well-validated Kessler Psychological Distress Scale was also incorporated into the online survey.


A total of 184 participants completed the survey. A total of 50 (27%) participants reported high/very high levels of psychological distress. Participants exposed to at least one adverse event while working reported higher psychological distress scores than those that had not. Just over half (51%) of all participants disagreed/strongly disagreed there was no stigma associated with seeking mental health support from paramedic colleagues and 54% of participants disagreed/strongly disagreed there was no stigma from managerial staff.


These findings suggest paramedics are at a greater risk of psychological distress than the general population. This is particularly problematic given there is a clear perception of ongoing stigma among paramedics associated with the utilisation of mental health support services. Future research should explore methods for reducing stigma and encouraging help-seeking behaviours in this vulnerable population throughout all phases of an emergency service workers career.



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