Rob blogs on creating the #thisismyhand hashtag to encourage colleagues in the ambulance service to seek support if they need it.
In the ambulance service the incidents we attend can be emotionally and physically demanding. We see and treat people in their most vulnerable state, often with a finite amount of resources, which can put us under high levels of pressure and stress.
We have suffered loss ourselves this year; the staff members worked on different stations to me, but I had met them on jobs and our paths crossed at hospital. I felt for my colleagues who worked alongside them, who had formed the close and unique relationships found in the emergency services and were grieving the loss.
I sat at home and felt that I needed to do something to show support and hope to my colleagues.
I also wanted to send a message to anyone who may be struggling or suffering themselves. I took a picture of my hand and posted it on Facebook saying ‘this is my hand, I extend it to my colleagues hold it if you ever need to and never feel that you’re on your own’ with #thisismyhand. It was widely shared on social media and reported in the local news. What started as a simple gesture evolved into a message which is still being shared.
I think it has made people realise just how important it is to look after our mental health and reinforce the fact that we will support each other through everything we encounter.
The reaction to #thisismyhand made me personally realise how important it is to lead the way and show everyone that it’s ok to talk about mental health, it’s ok to get help with mental health.
We need to continue breaking stigma, you are not weak, you don’t need to be embarrassed, it doesn’t mean you can’t do your job.
We already have a range of support available to us and our service signed the Blue Light Time to Change pledge in February of this year. On our station we have displayed the trust’s health and wellbeing resources available to staff, in addition we are promoting open dialog about mental health and sharing our own experiences. We do such a unique and challenging job that is bound to take its toll on our health. Staff exercise to keep physically fit and able to do their job, we need to do the same ‘exercise’ for our minds.
I would urge anyone who needs support or wants to speak about their mental health to do it. There will always be someone who can help, whether it’s through the service, Mind, Samaritans, a friend or family member. Please speak up and don’t feel that you’re on your own.
In my organisation more work and research is being done to promote health and wellbeing and we are looking at different methods to encourage staff to seek help and support when they are struggling.
We have made a start, but there is always more we can do at an organisational level and nationally. Quite simply we need to make it acceptable to have and treat a mental health condition, just like you would any other medical complaint.
No matter how dark it may seem, how hopeless and lost you feel, there will always be someone who can help, so reach out, tell someone and never feel alone.
Find out more about the Blue Light Programme support for emergency service staff and volunteers.