I recently answered a call for meditation instruction for a very specific group .. emergency service workers, first-responders, those at the front line!

This group was described as “hardened grizzled coppers?”

As the mother of a soon-to-be paramedic .. I have a very personal interest in doing what I can to support the emotional and mental wellbeing of those individuals who provide so much (and see so much) when helping our community, and I have a bag of meditation and mindfulness tools that I believe can be powerful antidotes to ongoing and ‘in the moment’ stressors.

Mindfulness exercises in fact are powerful tools for all of us .. ancient and practical techniques that can help us learn how to identify, tolerate and reduce difficult, even painful, feelings, thoughts and sensations .. so we might gain some confidence and mastery over our mind and our emotions.

These tools are invaluable for everyone and why I call meditation a ‘life skill

So .. I was really interested to read this morning of a pilot study being conducted between The Center for Healthy Minds and the Madison Police Department (MPD) “to better understand the impact of mindfulness-based practices on police officers’ physical and mental well-being”.

The study is going to focus on whether mindfulness-based practices can help improve officers’ abilities to manage the daily, and ongoing occupational stressors, they experience and examine their ability to strengthen attention,which is seen as an indicator to influence emotion regulation.

Those at the front line have unique and significant health challenges, with studies continuing to reflect elevated risks for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, substance abuse and mental health issues.

In Australia, a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia (2014) “Occupational injury risk among Australian paramedics: an analysis of national data” reported that “the risk of serious injury among Australian paramedics was found to be more than seven times higher than the Australian national average” and “the injury rate for paramedics was more than two times higher than the rate for police officer.”

In response to the growing awareness (and alarm) of this issue, earlier this year (June 2016) the Victorian Government announced New Mental Health Support To Help Paramedics Cope With Trauma. The State Government, Health Minister Jill Hennessy said “mental health must be recognised as a mainstream occupational health and safety issue” and so the Victorian State Government has provided $1 million, to partner with Ambulance Victoria and the mental health organisation Beyond Blue, to deliver this new program.

But back to the research being conducted by The Center for Healthy Minds and the Madison Police Department (MPD): the study will seek to learn whether “well-being practices such as mindfulness meditation can buffer officers against daily stress – in addition to acute, traumatic stressors – that contribute to physical and mental health challenges in the profession”.

You can read more about the study here.