Q&A with Frontline Mental Health Ambassador Louise Murphy

July 9, 2019

Q&A with Frontline Mental Health Ambassador Louise Murphy

Meet our Frontline Mental Health Conference Ambassador Louise Murphy in an exclusive Q&A.

Louise has become an Ambassador for the Frontline Mental Health Conference as she believes by having opportunities to network, share experiences, and learn more about mental health and wellbeing, first responders, their families and the Australian and New Zealand communities will benefit greatly.

Q: Why have you decided to be a Frontline Mental Health Ambassador?

Frontline Mental Health Ambassador Louise Murphy

A: I have decided to become a frontline mental health Ambassador as I believe that it is essential for people to understand that some of the great unsung heroes of our community are our Emergency First Responders. We need the support of these people—and, in turn, we need to support them.

As a Frontline Mental Health Ambassador, I will be able to help raise awareness in our community about first responders and mental health and wellbeing.

Q: What do you see is the most important part of frontline workers wellbeing?

A: The importance of self-care. Being able to make sure that our own bucket is full, and that we not pouring from an empty bucket. Although it sounds simple, developing healthy practices around exercise, diet, sleep and mindfulness / meditation practices will help.  These are often overlooked as we are so focused on helping other people and forget about ourselves.

It is also essential to have a healthy support network you can talk with and that 2am friend for the times when you do need help.

Q: What best practice should teams adopt to nurture the mental wellbeing culture?

A: Firstly, teams need to be connected with each other. Peer Support practices will grow a culture of support that moves teams from “I” and “me”, to “we” and part of a community.

We need to encourage open communication within teams so that individuals feel safe and supported to be able to talk about mental health issues or challenges without the fear of being judged or stigmatised.

Q: Why and how is peer support program important for frontline workers?

A: By nature of their roles, emergency first responders and frontline workers are at risk of developing mental health issues following exposure to traumatic events.

Peer support programs are about caring for and supporting your peers.  Being able to talk with someone who listens and understands, is able to be caring and non-judgemental and can help access professional support (if required) can help reduce the risk of mental health issues and suicide in this population.

About Louise

Louise Murphy has been a St John Ambulance Volunteer for 14 years and admitted to the Order of St John for her leadership and role as the NSW Peer Support Coordinator. Louise is a Registered Nurse and authorised Nurse Practitioner in the speciality of drug and alcohol medicine. She has worked as a Nurse in a variety of healthcare settings over the past 30 years. These include the public health system, correctional facilities and with the Australian Defence Force. Louise is currently the Principal Nurse Educator (Mental Health Services) at the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.

As a St John Ambulance Volunteer First Responder, Louise has been active with local and major events in New South Wales and has been deployed with St John Ambulance (NSW) to the Victorian bushfires. As an active member involved in numerous first responder critical incidents, Louise is passionate and acutely aware of member welfare and sustaining a mentally fit volunteer workforce.

Being a St John Ambulance volunteer first responder by its very nature, exposes individuals to incidents and situations not normally experienced by the general public.  These may be traumatic incidents in the sense that exposure to scenes, situations and events might potentially lead to psychological distress in volunteers.  In order to sustain volunteer psychological fitness, Louise has committed to and invested in caring for first responders through peer support programs.

Louise has recently been awarded a Churchill Fellowship which will allow her the opportunity to investigate best practice International peer support programs for volunteer emergency first responders. The aim being to provide the Australian community with world leading programs that reduce mental health issues and suicide rates within first responders.