Mental Health & First Responders: The forgotten crime costs.

Mr Terry Flanders1

1Investigation Systems Pty Ltd, Blacktown, Australia

Two separate government inquiries conducted in 2018 (Federal & NSW) explored mental health issues in first responder agencies.  First response agencies (police, fire brigade, ambulance & support staff) are where academia, government and industry intersect with the community.  Both inquiries heard evidence that poor management practices within first responder agencies result in suicides, low performance levels and high dis-engagements.

Social costs of crime are estimated at $6B (AUD). The personal cost from workplace mental health issues are paid by first responders.  Funds diverted from first responder budgets to pay for workers compensation, separations, loss of expertise, dismissals, court actions, retraining, and lost management time related to investigating mental health issues within agencies; are not included in current crime costs estimates.

There is no indication that a government led investigation into mental health costs attributable directly (agency, individual) and/or indirectly (family, society) to maintaining the justice system will continue.  Therefore, costs expended on first responder mental health issues will continue to be diverted from law enforcement.

Work Health & Safety (WHS) laws are criminal statutes that in Queensland include the crime of industrial manslaughter.  Unsafe systems of work that cause stressors leading to mental health issues are crimes under this legislation.  Should suicides attributable to unsafe systems of work continue, will a charge of industrial manslaughter be laid.

WHS crimes, like first responder mental health costs are not included when crime costs are calculated.  There is an urgent need for researchers to address this issue.


Leading criminal investigations targeting illicit drug production, supply and use, applies similar methodologies to ethnographic research, except your research findings are peer reviewed by the judicial system.

With 15 years ‘ethnographic’ experience researching illicit drug syndicates both here and overseas, Terry left law enforcement in 1999 and now provides security advice so businesses can better protect assets.  Security is about the protection of assets.  Nationally harmonised health and safety legislation identifies people as the primary workplace asset and make WHS offences a new type of white-collar crime.

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