Mental health and wellbeing issues for SAR personnel were at the forefront of the latest workshop hosted by the New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) Council.

The two-day workshop, which took place in Wellington, New Zealand, in late March, allowed participants to discuss pertinent health, safety and wellbeing matters across the SAR sector. The workshop was attended by representatives from across the SAR industry, including those not associated with maritime. Agencies that attended included Land Search and Rescue NZ, Coastguard NZ, Surf Life Saving NZ, Fire and Emergency NZ, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Wellington Free Ambulance, the Aoraki/Mt Cook Alpine Rescue Team, the National Air Desk, and Health NZ.

The NZSAR Council, which provides strategic leadership and direction to SAR organisations in New Zealand has long been a supporter of promoting positive mental health and wellbeing for SAR personnel, hosting this workshop every two years to ensure best practices are maintained.

“We need to constantly look after the mental health of people involved in SAR. Personnel often find themselves in hostile environments and unfavourable conditions, and rescuers need to know their capabilities so as to not to risk their own lives. Importantly, we need to ensure that SAR organisations provide the necessary levels of support once personnel return to shore and workshops like these are an excellent way of ensuring best practice across the sector,” said Andy Greig, Principal Adviser at NZSAR.

“Each person deals with their own health and wellbeing in different ways. It is important to realise that there is not one solution for all and there must be opportunities to assist each person in the required way,” he added.

Andy noted that having a wide range of SAR organisations in attendance, including marine, land and aviation-based agencies, was important to understand how to support personnel who put their own safety at risk for others.

“There are so many parallels between SAR organisations at sea, on land, or in the air. When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, we can learn a lot from other agencies to ensure that personnel have the right skills and means for coping with the stresses of their work,” he noted.

The NZSAR Council are a part of the IMRF’s #SARyouOK? mental health and wellbeing working group, which is looking to increase awareness and further break down the stigma attached to mental health and wellbeing issues faced by those working in the maritime SAR sector.

To find out more about the #SARyouOK? initiative, click here: