In times of crisis, disaster, and pain, we are taught from a young age that a ‘Triple Zero’ call will get us the help we need. However, while emergency services employees are constantly striving to help others, research indicates that they don’t always seek adequate help for themselves – particularly when it comes to their mental health.

Kelly Tow from the University of Wollongong was awarded an Australian Rotary Health Ian Scott PhD Scholarship this year to improve our understanding of the factors influencing help-seeking in Australian paramedics.

“Given that mental health issues can be common in this population, the low rates of help-seeking present a critical issue for the safety and wellbeing of emergency services employees,” Kelly said.

“Specifically, my project focuses on the impact of paramedic identity on help-seeking, and the role that educational experiences play in this relationship.”

Kelly’s PhD project will involve three phases, starting with a systematic review to look at the barriers and facilitators to help-seeking in emergency services employees.

After this, Kelly will conduct a qualitative study to examine the ‘occupation specific’ factors influencing help-seeking in paramedics.

“Through a series of in-depth interviews with Australian paramedics, the study aims to understand how paramedics frame their identity and how help-seeking does or does not fit into this identity.”

Lastly, there will be a quantitative aspect, which aims to determine the strength of relationships between paramedic identity and help-seeking, and examine whether educational experiences can play a moderating role.

“The findings of this study will have key relevance for the design and implementation of successful interventions and strategies to increase mental health help-seeking in current and future Australian paramedics,” Kelly said.

With mental health issues such as depression, stress, anxiety, sleep problems, burnout and PTSD, and a higher risk of suicide, Kelly believes improving help-seeking for paramedics is a vital step towards improving their mental health and wellbeing.

“I chose to explore help-seeking in paramedics and other emergency services employees because it was upsetting to find that these individuals, who dedicate innumerable hours to the protection and wellbeing of others, will often struggle to obtain help when it comes to their own needs.”

We wish Kelly all the best with her research.


Media contact: Jessica Cooper – (02) 8837 1900 or