The death of a Victoria Police officer has highlighted the toll emergency services work takes on employees and has prompted calls from mental health professionals and senior police to look at better suicide prevention measures.
An officer used her gun to take her own life at work at 3:00pm on Monday at the Seaford Multi-Disciplinary Centre, a facility providing support for victims of sexual assault in Melbourne’s south-east.
Officers at the centre have been offered counselling, Police Association secretary Ron Iddles said.
“Any incident like this that takes place likes this amongst work colleagues is very traumatic for them,” he said.
“Those also who are suffering, might be depression or anxiety, need to reach out to your friends and get professional help.”
It is believed four officers have taken their lives in recent years, prompting Victoria Police to launch a nationwide review into police suicides.
Mr Iddles said the force was looking at ways to try to prevent any more deaths.
“I know it’s of concern to the current Chief Commissioner and he’s going to do a review of police suicides around Australia,” he said.
“Then [we’ll] see if we can do something to develop a strategy that will hopefully prevent it.”
An investigation will look at the circumstances surrounding the death of the leading senior constable.
Professor Sam Harvey from the Black Dog Institute said the death was a reminder of the mental health consequences of emergency service work.
“With the police I guess there’s a particular problem, while a lot of them are having mental health problems, they’re also carrying a weapon around,” he told 774 ABC Melbourne.
“This is thankfully still a relatively rare end point.”
About one in 10 emergency services workers show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Prof Harvey said.
He said that meant there were lessons to be learnt from the 90 per cent of workers in the field who are more resilient to mental health issues.
“So we’re trying to learn from that and trying to test whether we can train all new emergency workers to learn new resilience techniques,” Professor Harvey said.