Survey aims to investigate the forgotten responders: surf lifesavers

21 July 2021

CQUniversity is calling on surf lifesavers and lifeguards to participate in a survey as part of a research project aiming to understand and improve members' mental health.

The study' led by CQUni' in partnership with Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA)' Flinders University and Massey University' is unique because to date' there has been limited research into the association between surf lifesavers and mental health and no studies at all on the role of adolescent surf lifesavers and mental health.

Dr Samantha Fien' CQUni Exercise and Sports Sciences Lecturer and SLSA member for more than 20 years' said a key part of the research was a survey of SLSA members.

"First responders often face traumatic and emotionally-taxing incidents in their role. Understanding their mental health and coping capacity is important for wellbeing and continued service delivery'" she said.

Surf lifesavers and lifeguards are an under researched yet a vital part of the first responder workforce. The recent Senate Report on first responders explored mental health in the leading emergency services personnel in Australia and found a high incidence of mental health difficulties in those who worked or volunteered as emergency responders. However' a significant literature gap exists regarding mental health of surf lifesavers and lifeguards in both the international and Australian context."

"A pilot survey was completed earlier in the year to validate the survey questions as well as to examine the relationship between trauma-related experiences and PTSD symptoms' social support' self-efficacy' and mental health attitudes in a pilot study of adolescent and adult Australian surf lifesavers (volunteers) and lifeguards (paid)'" Dr Fien said.

"The final survey has now been released to SLSA members' which takes around 15-20 minutes to complete and may enable us to get the most accurate information and perspectives to ensure the members of the red and yellow movement are considered as we actively manage and plan for the future."

Dr Fien said the surveys have been developed by SLSA staff' mental health professionals including experts in the mental health of children/adolescents' and experts in survey design.

The survey items were then reviewed by a pool of SLSA staff and volunteers for appropriateness to the intended participants and to ensure they addressed the intended research purpose.

A total of 57 SLSA members (38 adults' 19 adolescents) responded to the pilot survey earlier in the year.

"Findings from the research' including the member survey will be used to help guide and shape the future strategic direction for training' including mental health education and first aid.

"The research will also provide a benchmark for future research that evaluates how lifesavers fair at mental health awareness."

Results from the pilot survey are expected to be published later this year.

She said as an incentive' SLSA Hall of Fame Ironman Trevor Hendy AM' has agreed to visit the club which has the highest percentage of members complete the survey to conduct a coaching clinic' or participate in a club event' at a mutually agreeable time.

At the end of the survey' participants will also be offered the chance to go in the draw to win one of ten $50.00 electronic gift cards.

"This is an important initiative that will be of significant benefit to everyone involved' and with whom we support and help within our communities'" she said.

Adolescent survey (13-17 years old):

Adult Survey (18 years and over):

Please note that Western Australia is not participating in this survey. WA members with concerns or issues are encouraged to contact their club's peer support officer.