Delivering life-saving mental health programs

Lifesavers give up their time to help others but it is an unfortunate reality that most will be involved in a critical incident at some point.


While performing their duties and ensuring safety on our beaches, lifesavers will often witness serious injuries, drownings, and face dangerous and risky situations themselves.


Life Saving Victoria’s (LSV) mission is to prevent aquatic related death and injury. It works under the umbrella of Emergency Management Victoria as part of the state’s emergency management services. As well as ensuring the safety of community members, LSV is committed to ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of its 35,000 members and over 300 staff.


In a suite of work since 2010, Phoenix Australia has provided expert advice to LSV on its critical incident policies and procedures, given guidance on how to best communicate with members about the management of critical incidents, and provided Psychological First Aid training.


The training enables lifesavers to understand their reactions, and the reactions of others, to critical incidents. It also helps Chief Lifeguards, and other senior members to have sensitive conversations that otherwise might be avoided.


Emma Atkins, General Manager of LSV says that, “It helps us to myth-bust, both within our organisation and beyond – to educate people about what are normal responses to frightening or stressful experiences”.


Associate Professor Darryl Wade, Head of Practice Improvement and Innovation at Phoenix Australia believes that, “LSV does a great job of looking after the wellbeing of their members. They make mental health visible, through training and the use of promotional and educational materials such as posters and brochures, and they keep to simple key messages”.


“What that means is that mental health is a part of everyday conversations at LSV, which is really important in ensuring that members get the support they need, when they need it. It’s great to see the organisation’s leaders being proactive about mental health issues,” says Darryl.


According to Emma Atkins there is still more that can be done within lifesaving organisations to support volunteers. She advocates embedding training at different time points, including robust information about the physical effects of stress and trauma in the case of a critical incident, and providing people with the tools to look after their own wellbeing.


Working with Phoenix Australia gives us confidence that we are following best practice, implementing the latest knowledge, and continually improving the support we provide.”

Emma Atkins, Life Saving Victoria


“We are a small emergency services organisation, so it is enormously reassuring to work with a trusted leader in the field, and that we are providing the best support to our members and staff.”