ACU-led study to bolster resilience in police officers.
An ACU-led landmark research project will assist the NSW Police Force in developing fresh solutions to help officers become more resilient, and support those suffering from stress-related illness.
Professor Rhonda Craven, Director of the Institute of Positive Psychology & Education, is heading the study that brings together representatives from the NSW Police Force and researchers from ACU, the University of Western Sydney, and three other international universities. The group has a diverse range of expertise including psychology, management, policing and criminology.
They will survey more than 20 thousand serving police officers and conduct further study to develop, for the first time, information-based scientific analysis of the NSW Police Force.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione joined Police and Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres, Professor Craven, head of the UWS Bachelor of Policing Program Dr Michael Kennedy and other representatives to announce the project in Sydney on Tuesday.
Funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Project grant worth $500,000, and an equivalent ‘in kind’ level of financial support from the universities, the project will investigate police commands in NSW to determine how to maintain an officer’s wellbeing in the face of adversity.
Findings of the study will be used to further develop psychological tools to help the entire workforce deal with stress and trauma.
“Every day the NSW Police Force puts their lives on the line to protect and serve all Australians,” Professor Craven said. “They are unsung Australian heroes. We aim to find out what factors protect and enhance the health and wellbeing of our NSW Police Force. This will enable research-derived strategies to cultivate the capability of and further futures for the police force.”
By emphasising a scientific understanding of what makes police officers fit and well, the aim of the project is to develop a new approach driven by positive psychology, which is world-renowned in helping people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related illnesses.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Stuart Ayres said police deal with many traumatic events throughout the course of their work, which can have an impact on an officer’s psychological wellbeing.
“Our police personnel are there for the community to help us in our time of need. They look out for us when no one else can,” he said.
“This project is a continuation of the NSW Police Force’s commitment to improving the welfare of officers. We recognise that after helping members of the community, officers sometimes need help themselves.
“By working hand-in-hand with practice-driven researchers, who understand the conditions within the Force, police will be able to develop the best solutions for its organisation.”
Commissioner Scipione said stress awareness and management was crucial within the NSW Police Force.
“The nature of policing is that often officers will not have control over events that lead to stress and trauma, so it’s important we look after our mental health,” he said.
“By collaborating with academic researchers from ACU and UWS, we hope to develop practical applications and policies to build on current initiatives of the Workforce Safety Command.
“Through this project, we aim to help officers become more resilient, assist those already suffering PTSD to achieve better mental health outcomes and allow us to better help officers who have already disengaged.”