Support will be offered to emergency services staff and volunteers in the police, fire, ambulance and search and rescue services across Wales.
Mind launched the Blue Light Programme, funded by the Cabinet Office, in England in 2015. Additional funding means the programme can now be rolled out to Wales.
Mind’s research shows that nearly 9 in 10 emergency workers have experienced stress, low mood or poor mental health while at work, and 1 in 4 has contemplated suicide.
The Blue Light Programme will offer training to staff to help them manage the situations they face, as well as training for managers to offer support to their teams. As part of the programme Mind Cymru will also establish a network of Blue Light Champions to support and advocate for colleagues, as well as a wider peer support network within the emergency services in Wales.
Sara Moseley, Director of Mind Cymru, said:
“Blue light workers do an extremely challenging job day in, day out, frequently encountering difficult and traumatic situations.
“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. Working alongside our local Mind network in Wales, the Blue Light programme will allow us to support more than 20,000 people across Wales.”
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. Fewer than 4 in 10 told Mind they had taken time off work due to poor mental health. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) has found that this is much lower than the general workforce, with nearly three in five saying they had needed time off for poor mental health.
The Blue Light Programme focusses on five main areas:
- Tackling stigma and discrimination by working with employers at an organisational level
- Embedding workplace wellbeing by helping employers create a bespoke mental health training programme for managers, staff and volunteers
- Building mental health resilience support for staff and volunteers
- Providing bespoke information and support for staff and volunteers as well as their family and friends
- Improving access to mental health support for staff and volunteers that work within the emergency services
Jonathan Drake, Assistant Chief Constable at South Wales Police, said:
“South Wales Police are pleased to support the work of Mind to get as many people as possible to talk about mental health. Our involvement in the Blue Light Programme signifies our commitment as an emergency service to all police officers and staff, to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination within the Force. Breaking the silence sends a powerful message to demonstrate that mental health issues can be discussed openly and we want everyone who works within South Wales Police to feel they can be open about their mental health and get support if they need it.
“In liaison with our Occupational Health and Human Resources departments, we have developed an Action Plan to embed the pledge into the Force. This will involve a review of the current support available as well as the creation of an internal anti-stigma campaign which will be advertised in the workplace to raise awareness that it’s okay to talk about mental health.”
Claire Vaughan, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Executive Director of Workforce and Organisational Development, said:
“Working for an emergency service can be challenging both physically and mentally, so we’re delighted that Mind’s Blue Light Programme will allow us to access additional resources to support our dedicated staff and volunteers.
“Looking after our colleagues, who save lives day in, day out and support people at their most vulnerable, is really important to us and this is a very welcome addition to the mental health support we already provide.
“The Blue Light Programme has delivered invaluable support to our colleagues across the border, and we’re so pleased that emergency services in Wales will now also be able to take full advantage of this service.”
Huw Jakeway, Chief Fire Officer, South Wales Fire & Rescue Service, said:
“Our mental health affects the way we think and feel about ourselves and others, and how we deal with life. Positive mental health is essential for all of us and it is stark to know that one in four of us will be affected by mental health illness each year.
“South Wales Fire & Rescue Service has pledged to tackle the unfair stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental health. I am pleased that the Blue Light Programme has now been extended to Wales as I know it has been extremely successful in other parts of the UK.
“Working in the emergency services is a very challenging and demanding vocation and it is important that we all look after each other. Modern life is busy, but surely we can find time for each other, it is well known that those of us that work for the emergency services are less likely to ask for help and support.
“As a Service, we, through our Occupational Health Unit, have many different support networks and mechanisms in place and the Blue Light Programme is a welcome addition to these.”
For further information, including how you can sign up to be a Blue Light Champion, visit the Blue Light section of the Mind website.