I am 33 years old and I have worked in the ambulance service since 2008. I started as a member of A&E support. I progressed onto the student paramedic programme and qualified as a paramedic in 2011. I now work as a solo responder in a Fast Response Unit.
I was involved in a number of stressful events last year. One of these was an investigation at work. Shortly after this, my son was born. He was born unwell, and my wife and I watched as they resuscitated him. I had to take time off work to cope with the events. The doctor eventually diagnosed me with stress, some of it being work-related.
The colleagues I work with on a daily basis have been very helpful and full of support. It makes a difference just knowing that they are there when you need to have a chat about things.
For example, I have a very good friend at work who would call me on a regular basis and ask if I was okay. I called him the day I felt that I couldn’t take it anymore and needed help. He arranged for me to see a manager and to get more help.
I also have a few work friends who live nearby and we would meet on a regular basis for coffee and to chat about things, and about how I was getting on.
The added benefit was that, in my trust, there is counselling available to staff when they need it. I took up this offer myself, and I’m not embarrassed that I accessed this support. I would 100% recommend anyone going through a tough time to take up a similar service. For me, what helped was that I was able to talk to someone independent and non-judgemental.
What wasn’t helpful was the length of time that it took for the managers to realise that there was something wrong with a member of staff when they needed some support. I think that management at all levels should receive training on looking out for staff who are potentially having a hard time with their mental health. The training should include early warning signs and what they can do to start helping. The training should then be rolled out to the rest of the service staff to help look after our colleagues.
Mental health is hard to deal with because there isn’t enough training and information out there. This is why I have decided to share my story with the Mind Blue Light Programme. It’s important for people to know that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed to ask for it if you need it.
Depending on your trust, there are support mechanisms available to staff. There is counselling, LINC and occupational health. Just speaking to your colleagues in the mess room and letting off steam before or after your shift can make a huge difference as well.
And if you’ve got a colleague who experiences a mental health problem, and you’re not sure what to do or say, my advice would be to just let that person know that you are there if they need to talk or go for a coffee. Don’t push for information or details if the person isn’t ready to talk about it. Let them know that there is support available when they are ready.