The survey, conducted to coincide with the release of a report marking the end of Mind’s Blue Light Programme, showed that almost two in three emergency services personnel (64 per cent) said they felt encouraged to talk about their own mental health, compared to just under one in three (29 per cent) in 2015.
Mind has been providing a dedicated programme of mental health support to 999 staff and volunteers across police, fire, ambulance and search and rescue service since 2015.
Data from the mental health charity reveals that in just a few years, the Government-funded programme has had a positive impact when it comes to attitudes and awareness surrounding mental health across the four blue light services.
Other key findings featured in the report include:
The data show that significant progress has been made when it comes to emergency service organisations offering and promoting wellbeing support, and creating an open culture where workers feel able to discuss poor mental health in the workplace.
However, there is still work to be done, as the research also shows that the prevalence of poor mental health was on the rise, with reported good mental health decreasing slightly.
The 2019 research from over 5,000 respondents across police, fire, ambulance and search and rescue services also found:
“We’re grateful to have received funding to deliver this exciting and pioneering programme over the last few years. We’re pleased to see the positive impact that it’s had on our hard-working 999 staff and volunteers, especially when it comes to opening up about mental health at work.
“While progress has been made in laying the groundwork, there is still more to be done. Our research showed a high prevalence of poor mental health across the emergency services. It’s not clear the reasons why poor mental health is on the rise but it’s likely that increased awareness and reduced stigma have both played a role in more 999 workers coming forward if and when they’re struggling with their mental health. Whatever is behind the rise in mental health problems, we’re urging emergency services organisations, representative bodies, Government and policymakers to come together and combine efforts to ensure the mental health of our 999 teams remains a top priority. Driving this forward requires continued and sustained resources to keep up the momentum, as well as implementing the recommendations to come out of the Thriving at Work review.
“Mind is still here to support everyone experiencing a mental health problem in England and Wales, including 999 staff and volunteers. As the funding ends for our dedicated programme of support, we’re working hard alongside our network of local Minds to ensure continued support is available to everyone who needs it – whether through our website, resources, Infoline or training.”
The data will be released within a report on key learning and recommendations from the programme at an event in Central London. The report also highlights the impact the Blue Light Programme has had over the last four years when it comes to promoting good mental health across the emergency services.
Key findings include:
“I love my job, I love being a police officer, but there are times when emotions can just overwhelm you. It’s a constant mental battle being a police officer and indeed with the other emergency services. That’s why it’s important that mental health is on the agenda, so that we can understand these feelings and work with them, prior to them becoming out of hand.
“I became a Mind Blue Light Champion. The information I get through is absolutely brilliant and first class, and I can cascade it down to others. The supervisors themselves have got an extra degree of understanding of mental ill health, where they can be signposted to for further help. Without the support I’ve received from Mind, I wouldn’t have understood mental ill health as much as I do now. I wouldn’t have had my own coping mechanisms in place to deal with my own mental health – I would have been really struggling. I still have up and down days, but I know where to turn for support now, and that my employer and colleagues will help me through.”
“You’re lying awake at 2am and that vision comes into your eyes, what you saw on that one call, that call, that carries with you. People need our staff on the worst day of their life. My biggest concern is that it’s a drip, drip, drip effect. That’s why I’m here to bang the drum about mental health.
“Yes, OK, I have experienced mental health problems. I asked for assistance through Mind’s Blue Light Programme. It doesn’t make me a weak person. I’m happy and proud to be who I am but I want others to be too. We’re so busy looking after other people but not ourselves.
“The Blue Light Programme significantly changed my life at a period of time where I couldn’t be this smiley, happy Mum any more, and the confident manager. They were really good at helping me get back on my feet really quickly. I just needed that bit of concentrated support.”
“There was very much an attitude of you’ve got to be tough to be in mountain rescue, you can’t get phased if you happen to see something traumatic. Two years ago, I had a bit of a lapse in my mental health. I decided to be open with the team and tell them about my bipolar disorder. I had an influx of others able to share their own personal struggles. It made me realise that we [employers and colleagues] need to do a lot more.
“We’ve used a lot of the resources that are available online, three of the team are qualified Mental Health First Aiders and we now do bespoke call-out scenarios where the person that we’re looking for will have a mental health condition. Many of the people I come across in my day-to-day work will have mental health problems, so having my own experience too really helps me empathise and be able to put myself in others’ shoes. If you can find the bravery to speak up about it, the support is definitely there.”
*In 2015, Mind conducted a scoping survey in 2015 of 3,627 emergency services personnel to help with the development of the Blue Light Programme. The data revealed a high prevalence of poor mental health among emergency services staff and volunteers, a clear need for targeted mental health support, and for emergency services organisations to step up on behalf of their staff and volunteers. Four years later, we surveyed over 5,081 blue light staff and volunteers across to see what had changed.
Access our continued blue light support at mind.org.uk/bluelight.