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Mind research finds stress affects nine in ten emergency services personnel

Posted by Tracy Seward

Mind research finds stress affects nine in ten emergency services personnel

In late 2014 mental health charity Mind ran an online survey which reached approximately 1.5% of all emergency services staff and volunteers (3,627 people). Below are the findings:

  • 9 in 10 (87 per cent) emergency services staff and volunteers surveyed have experienced stress, low mood and poor mental health at some point while working for the emergency services.
  • More than half (55 per cent) had experienced mental health problems at some point. This is in sharp contrast to findings of the general workforce from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)], which reveal 26 per cent of respondents had experienced a mental health problem – indicating that working in emergency services is associated with a greater risk of developing poor mental health.
  • Despite the greater prevalence of mental health problems among emergency services personnel, Mind’s research indicates that they are less likely to take time off sick as a result. Just 43 per cent of emergency service workers and volunteers surveyed said they have taken time off work due to poor mental health. The CIPD has found that this figure is much higher among the general workforce, with nearly three in five (57 per cent) saying they had needed time off for poor mental health. This suggests that emergency service workers find it harder than other professions to say when they’re not at their best and keep coming to work regardless. It could be that personnel are fearful of talking about mental health at work or don’t believe their employers view mental health problems as valid reasons for sickness absence.

The initial findings of the research were revealed at the programme launch event hosted by the Cabinet Office which took place earlier this month. The breakfast event included speeches from Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer; Chief Constable at Leicestershire Police Simon Cole QPM; and Eleanor Hathaway of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, on her personal experience of a mental health problem.

Staff and volunteers in the emergency services have already been identified as at higher risk of developing a mental
health problem, due to the unique set of difficulties these challenging roles present. However, this data is the first to reveal the scale of the problem and the level of unmet need. The mind has received £4m in funding from LIBOR fines to deliver a programme supporting ‘Blue Light’ personnel with their mental health.

The mind is urging emergency services organisations to register their interest in signing the Blue Light Time to Change pledge – a commitment to developing meaningful action plans to support the wellbeing of their staff and volunteers. The action plans will follow the model developed by Time to Change, the anti-stigma campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, but will be more tailored to the emergency services needs.

The Blue Light Programme focuses on four main areas:

  1. Tackling stigma and discrimination – based on the Time to Change model including social media campaigns and work with employers to tackle stigma and discrimination at an organisational level.
  2. Embedding workplace wellbeing – a bespoke mental health training programme for managers, staff and volunteers.
  3. Building resilience – a pilot approach to building the mental health resilience of emergency services staff and volunteers.
  4. Providing information and support – a bespoke mental health information service for emergency services staff and volunteers, their family and friends; this is likely to include a clinical intervention pilot to look at the best way to provide access to more specialist clinical mental health support.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Not only are many of our blue light personnel struggling with their mental health, but they’re less likely to seek support or have time off sick than the general workforce. The programme we’ll be delivering over the next year aims to ensure that the estimated quarter of a million people working and volunteering within police, ambulance, fire and search and rescue divisions are able to talk openly about their mental health and access the support they need to stay well, recover and continue doing the vital and challenging roles they do serving the community.

“Since Mind was awarded the funding and we have begun work on the project, we have been really encouraged by the response from everyone we have spoken to. There is a clear consensus that this is an issue that needs tackling and it’s clear that the will is there to address it.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “Emergency service workers save lives every day, helping people in trouble or in need, but we need to support them as they deal with the incredibly stressful and sometimes harrowing situations they face in the line of duty.

“That’s why, at the end of last year, we asked Mind to work with our emergency services personnel to develop and trial a new package of front-line mental health support. So I’m delighted that this programme is now underway.

“We still have a long way to go to break down the stigma around mental health but with initiatives like this we’re helping to drive a culture change so that one day we’ll see parity of esteem between physical and mental health.”

See more here: http://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/mind-research-finds-stress-affect-nine-in-ten-emergency-services-personnel/#.VP7mSi7akxJ

For more information on the Stress Awareness for Employees eLearning course2, please click here.

For more information on the Stress Awareness for Managers eLearning course, please click here.

The 2020 pandemic has taken its toll on the nations mental health and has led to a general increase in alcohol consumption. Here is a helpful resource and discussion for reducing drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Praxis42 news is provided in partnership with Barbour EHS

March 2015

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