“One in four emergency services workers has thought about ending their lives.”
(Mind survey, February 2016)*
Monday 10th October (World Mental Health Day) marks the official launch of a new initiative designed to improve the wellbeing of emergency services workers across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Local charities Mind in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough & Fenland Mind are working with all four emergency services to develop a network of champions and senior managers to tackle the stigma around mental health issues, build resilience, develop wellbeing policies and link service personnel to further support where needed.
The Blue Light Network is one of four pilot networks across England that are part of Mind’s Blue Light Programme. Funded by the Cabinet Office using Libor fines, the network will support a programme of activity designed to collectively improve access to mental health information and support for all employees across Police, Search and Rescue, Fire and Ambulances services.
Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, East of England Ambulance Service; and Cambridgeshire Search & Rescue (CamSAR) have all welcomed the project and a working group of senior managers across all four services have committed to sharing good practice and resources around improving the wellbeing of personnel across their organisations.
Jenny Swain, Blue Light Network Coordinator at Peterborough and Fenland Mind, said: “1 in 4 people in England experience a mental health issue every year. Blue Light personnel experience the same mental health issues as the general population, however research shows us that these problems are exacerbated by the nature of their profession. Both local Minds are delighted to be supporting this Network, bringing services together to have open and honest conversations around the mental health and wellbeing of their dedicated personnel who undertake such incredibly difficult work.”
Chris Strickland, Chief Fire Officer said: “By supporting the local Mind’s Programme we hope to empower our operational and support staff to talk about mental health and wellbeing confidently and to respond to both colleagues and the public appropriately. As well as signing the pledge, we are taking a number of steps to reduce the stigma of mental health issues and provide support for staff going forward to show our commitment, including running training sessions for staff to help people manage mental health at work.”
Debra Winterson, Health & Wellbeing Manager for the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST), said “I can say that we are totally committed to learning from the Blue Light Network. We all share similar challenges, and to work collaboratively can only be a good thing. I look forward to sharing ideas and finding the best solutions for our workforce”.
Alongside the Working Group 96 champions across the services have already volunteered to work together to develop in-house initiatives that tackle stigma and improve mental health awareness.
Wayne Bent, Search Manager for Cambridgeshire Search & Rescue (CamSAR), said “Our search technicians can be required to handle very stressful and disturbing situations, which can seriously impact their own health, family life and day jobs. Mind’s support through the Blue Light Network is welcome in looking out for our team members so they, in turn, can keep looking out for the vulnerable missing people we serve.”
Mark Butler, Detective Sergeant for Cambridgeshire Constabulary, said “Police Officers and staff will all experience traumatic or stressful situations in their careers, it’s part of the nature of our role. It is therefore important we take care of our mental wellbeing. As a force, we need to ensure that we support officers and staff in every way we can. Our Chief Constable has signed the Blue Light Pledge, showing the importance of raising awareness of mental health challenges that can affect us all. Maintaining and improving the wellbeing of staff is taken seriously within the force and being a Champion gives me an opportunity to support this vital work.”
About the Blue Light Programme
- * Mind, February 2016, online survey of 1,641 emergency services staff and volunteers (published in March 2016).In November 2014, Mind was awarded LIBOR funding to develop and deliver the Blue Light Programme – a major new year-long programme of support for emergency services staff and volunteers.
- The programme was developed in consultation with emergency service staff and volunteers and involving local Minds and professional bodies, employers, charities and unions that represent emergency services staff and volunteers.
- The Blue Light Programme focuses on five main areas:
- 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.
- Embedding workplace wellbeing – a bespoke mental health training programme for managers, staff and volunteers.
- Building resilience – a pilot approach to building the mental health resilience of emergency services staff and volunteers.
- 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.
- Improving Support Pathways – training a cohort of Blue Light Champions to become peer supporters and commissioning the delivery of four pilot Blue Light Mental Health Networks to improve pathways to mental health support for Blue Light personnel.
- Since the Programme launched in March 2015, mental health support has been provided for emergency services staff and volunteers from police, fire, ambulance and search and rescue services across England.
- Beyond March 2016, funds were allocated to 4 local Mind organisations to continue to deliver the Programme on a smaller scale throughout 2016/17.
- Find out more at www.mind.org.uk/BlueLight.
- The Blue Light Infoline offers confidential, independent and practical information, advice and signposting around mental health and wellbeing to emergency service staff, volunteers and their families in England. The Infoline is available on 0300 303 5999 (lines open Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm, calls charged at local rates). Alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org or text 84999 for a response from one of our advisers during Infoline working hours.
Blue Light Network Coordinator
Peterborough and Fenland Mind
Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue
Press office: email@example.com
Health & Wellbeing Manager
East of England Ambulance Service Trust
Corporate Communications: firstname.lastname@example.org