PENOLA Country Fire Service (CFS) volunteers Ray and Cathy Paine are among those taking calls from firefighters across the country to support their mental health.
The volunteers work alongside Stress Prevention Management and Peer Support Services (SPAM) – a sub-branch of the CFS which focuses on mental health of firefighters.
Each volunteer makes around 10 calls per day to fellow firefighters or family members of those who have recently been deployed and are seeking extra help.
SPAM has been inundated with calls as a result of the current devastating bushfire season with over 400 calls per day.
While most calls were predominantly CFS and parks and wildlife carers, the Penola pair has also received calls from those who have been deployed and returned home.
“A lot of people are happy to have someone phone them and check in on them which is good,” Ms Paine said.
“Then there are those who think they are fine so we leave our number with them in case they change their mind.”
Ms Paine said the pair experience many positive conversations, describing the CFS as “one big family”.
“Everyone deals with the post-firefighting differently,” Mr Paine said.
“Everyone picks up on different things when they are out fighting and this type of service gives them peace of mind because we have all been that way at one point or another.
“We have had people not talk to us but just say thank you again and again for the phone call which just shows how appreciative they all are.”
Mr Paine said many volunteers sit down with their local brigades and discuss any issues.
“One thing we need to keep in mind is that what we are feeling is normal but what we are seeing is
abnormal,” he said.
“We need to remember that once we walk away it is over for us but it is never over for the families.”
beyondblue, Lifeline and other faculties are also available for assistance with SPAM the main contact for CFS volunteers.
SPAM can be contacted on 8115 3950.