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Peer Support Week

 

Peer Support Week 2017 was held from 12 to 18 March and was a chance to recognise the valuable contributions Peer Support Officers (PSOs) make towards improving the health and wellbeing of the QFES workforce around the state.

PSOs volunteer their time to assist and support colleagues experiencing personal and work-related difficulties, providing an empathetic ear and linking people with additional resources to help them through tough times. 

As part of Peer Support Week celebrations, QFES announced the recipients of the QFES Olga Wilson Award for Peer Support Officers of the Year.

Congratulations to the three winners, as well as the nominees.

Peer Support Officers of the Year

PSOs' perspectives

After working as a peer support officer in the SES over the last five years, I’ve realised the importance of the role, as sometimes volunteers need to talk about the things they go through. One of the most memorable tasks I was a part of and sticks in my memory was when I was deployed to assist in the recovery efforts following Ex-Tropical Cyclone Yasi. As a doctor, I was assigned as a first aid officer at the showgrounds, assisting people when they needed it, but also getting the opportunity to get to know my fellow SES members. It was there I learned how important volunteers were and the work they do for the community. After seeing what SES members go through in the role, I decided to look deeply into peer support and how I could best help fellow members and the community. I love my role as a peer support officer and I hope to continue as long as I can.”

Dr Gerard Meijer – SES Peer Support Officer.

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“I joined the Fire Service in October 1986 as an Auxiliary Fire Fighter in Charters Towers as I wanted to give something back to my community.  In 1996 I applied to become a Peer Support Officer (PSO) for the Service and was very happy to be accepted.

I became a PSO as I could see that some of my fellow workers needed some help after critical incidents that we attended, and for me to help them I needed to learn how from professional people.

Becoming a PSO is the best thing I have done as I do love helping people.  I get a lot of personal satisfaction seeing a person walk away with a smile on their face because of the support that is given to them.

The work of a PSO is very important as these people we talk to sometimes think that they have nowhere to turn to, but we can give them lots of hope just by listening to them, maybe holding their hands and sometimes shedding a tear or two with them.  It makes them see we too are human and we care.

During my years as a PSO I have found that having respect for everyone you work with and talk to is very important.  My experiences are something I will never forget.”

Nellie Baron - RFS Peer Support Officer.

 

 

 

​I am proud to say I have been a firefighter for over 31 years and am currently working in Central Region as the Director, Regional Development.

I completed my foundation training as a Peer Support Officer (PSO) in 2011. The training was an enlightening experience for me, where I discovered a lot about myself while learning the basic skills of how to support my peers. This training is ongoing with the support of our supervision counsellor.

I love doing PSO work, no matter who it is with or the level they work at. There is no rank in PSO work, it is all about the person, not what they have on their shoulder. I also love the confidentiality part of our work because it allows people to feel more comfortable to open up and say whatever they want. My fellow PSOs are like my second family because we support each other, train together and watch each other's back.

PSOs are an important and integral part of any emergency service because of the nature of the work we can be called to. Emergency service workers need to have a support network available to them 24/7. The PSO network is just one part of the support available. Over the years I believe we have developed a supportive culture where we all watch each other's back and most people genuinely care about their work mate.

I often make it known at Senior Managers meetings that I am there as a PSO for them as well. Senior Officers are at times, mainly when on call, exposed to trauma and can be affected by the experience. It's important we are inclusive of all staff and volunteers when offering support.

Ross Macrae – QFES Peer Support Officer

 

I have been with QFES for 12 years, and have worked in various areas during that time.  I have been a PSO for approximately 18 months.  

 For several years I had noticed that colleagues felt comfortable opening up to me about work or personal issues they were having, but I didn't have the tools to assist them (other than being a great listener who respected their confidentiality).  The PSO foundation training provided me with additional skills that have enabled me to provide better support to colleagues.

Being a PSO gives me a sense of value within QFES and allows me to "give back" to my work community.  I am very humbled when colleagues approach me, both by their willingness to reach out and their vulnerability when they open up to me.  For some people, this first step is a very brave one, but it is so important for people to know they are supported at work, and can access a range of additional supports throughout the network we have established. 

No matter who you are, whether you are working on the frontline, or behind a desk, you are vulnerable to stress in all its forms.  Be it personal or work related, there is a level of resilience we all have, but sometimes that level dips and we find ourselves not coping as well in some (or perhaps all) areas of our lives. 

There is reluctance to put our hands up and ask for help, or tell someone we are having a hard time, but it is SO important that we do before things become unmanageable.  We need to remove the stigma around asking for help as we are all human, and all experience ups and downs throughout our lives.  Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. 

Sharon Davis – QFES Peer Support Officer

​I have been with QFES since joining as an Auxiliary in 2002 and Permanent since 2007. I became a PSO in 2012. I was talking with a colleague who was struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - he made the suggestion for me to become a PSO and I was able to learn the skills to assist people with a wide range of concerns. 

Being a support to others can be greatly rewarding, and I like to hope that those who have been helped can help others. I like to think that we all have a responsibility to offer support to others, it’s just that PSOs have a title.

PSOs can help anybody. I have talked with people from all areas of QFES and have also used my PSO skills in helping members of the public affected at incidents.

The PSO program is important because it reassures people that there are others out there who will listen to them.  PSOs are easy to talk to, and are often familiar with the situation because of having shared a similar experience.

Eddie Huffam – QFES Peer Support Office