ECHO – NOVA was established in response to the need for awareness as well as effective, accessible and appropriate mental health care for Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals.
One day, not long ago, a medical doctor specialising in emergency medicine, an Advanced Life Support paramedic and; a Psychology graduate started a discussion about the well-being and mental health of South African first responders (Emergency Medical Service personnel). With a wealth of first-hand experience and an increasingly growing need, an idea to make a difference and a research topic was born. The research aimed to investigate the needs and mental health resources of EMS personnel. While the sample for the research was relatively small, the results were astonishing.
Some access to counselling services is available, but these services do not always meet the needs of EMS personnel. This, coupled with an apparent lack of research on the extent of trauma exposure of EMS personnel and the effects thereof, led to the establishment of ECHO-NOVA. Although some transformation has taken place in the EMS since 1994, particularly regarding racial representation, and to some extent also gender representation, this community remains largely male dominated and is characterised by a “macho”-culture.
The inevitable result of this tough environment is that emotional and psychological trauma experienced by EMS personnel is often minimised and disregarded. This results in the development of compound negative effects that ultimately impacts negatively on the physical, emotional and social wellbeing of EMS personnel. It not only impedes their own mental health and social relationships, but also their job functioning.
Meet our founders
Zanel Janse van Rensburg
Dr Marli Janse van Rensburg
Emergency Medicine Registrar & Associate Lecturer (WITS)
Jasper Jansen van Rensburg
(Advanced Life Support Paramedic)