Victoria Police Mental Health and Wellbeing Study: Mental Health Outcomes

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned ReportOther


Mental health conditions have a major impact on the health and wellbeing of Australian workers, and have been identified as one of the national priorities for prevention in the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022. There is a unique opportunity in the workplace to intervene in order to reduce the incidence of mental health conditions and improve labour force productivity, as well as produce a positive impact on society. The nature of Police and Emergency Service work means that first responders are likely to be regularly exposed to potentially traumatic events, which may or may not impact their mental health.
The Victoria Police Mental Health and Wellbeing study was undertaken by Victoria Police and Monash University in 2017. A direct survey was undertaken with all Victoria Police employees. The survey used existing, validated psychometric tools where possible, including:
• Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21)
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL5)
• Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT)
• International Personality Item Pool (IPIP) – anger sub-questions
The original report focused on a comprehensive overview of the mental health profile of Victoria Police employees. The current analyses focus on identifying associations between specific mental health outcomes/symptoms and a range of socio-demographic variables.
Throughout the analyses, a few groups were observed to have an elevated risk of poor mental wellbeing. A group that consistently had higher odds of experiencing poor mental health and wellbeing was the ‘return to the work’ group. Compared to full-time and part-time workers, they had higher odds of depression, anxiety and stress symptoms, a diagnosed mental illness, hazardous alcohol consumption, suicidal ideation and burnout. These results suggest that there may be unique stressors in place for those returning to work which are negatively affecting their mental wellbeing. Further exploration of this trend would help in the development of support services specifically aimed at helping this group transition safely back into the workplace.
There were also differences observed between metropolitan and regional/rural/remote locations across a number of domains. Compared to those working in metropolitan areas, those in rural areas had a higher odds of hazardous alcohol consumption and burnout, as well as higher anger scores and lower sleep quality. They were also more likely to not seek help when they needed it. However, attitudes regarding mental health stigma and support seeking did not differ across Region, Department or Command. This may reflect different work demands, support or structures.
There were a few Region/Department/Commands that had poorer mental health outcomes. Consistent with the previous study, Road Policing Command had higher odds of severe depression symptoms, a diagnosed mental health condition, suicidal ideation, and negative views of organisational environment. Similarly, Public Support Services also had higher odds of depression symptoms and suicidal ideation, as well as lower self-rated physical health. Those working in People Development Command and Legal Services both had increased odds of having a diagnosed mental health condition and suicidal ideation, and those in ‘Other’ divisions had increased odds of severe anxiety symptoms and suicidal ideation.
Some distinct differences were observed across different work schedules, with those working regular daytime shifts showing lower mental wellbeing across several measures. Compared to rotational workers, daytime workers had higher odds of severe symptoms of depression and anxiety, a diagnosed mental health condition and suicidal ideation, and they were also less likely to seek help. On the other hand, those who worked mostly evening/night shifts had significantly lower odds of lower depression, anxiety, or stress symptoms, a diagnosed mental health condition, hazardous alcohol consumption, suicidal ideation, and burnout, as well as better sleep quality, lower anger scores and higher agreement with organisational environment statements. A possible explanation of the difference across shift types is that the nature of the work or the stressors experienced are inherently different for daytime workers compared to evening/night workers.
Finally, it was found that certain groups had more negative attitudes regarding mental health stigma and support seeking than others. Older males with more years of service typically had higher odds of believing that there is negative stigma surrounding mental health issues and seeking support for those issues. These attitudes could negatively affect their likelihood of seeking help when they need it.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMelbourne Vic Australia
Number of pages67
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

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