Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) are celebrating becoming the first emergency service in the North East to sign the Blue Light Time to Change pledge to tackle stigma around mental health.
The Blue Light programme was launched following research that showed emergency services staff and volunteers in England are more likely to experience mental ill health – but less likely to seek support than the general population.
To mark national Time to Talk Day today (4 February 2016), staff at the fire service will be led by Chief Fire Officer Tom Capeling at an event.
The event will encourage people to share their understanding of mental health and will inform staff of the actions they can take to help keep themselves and colleagues well for work.
Chief Fire Officer Capeling said: “I’m really proud that our Service has embraced this opportunity to play its part in ending the stigma that wrongly surrounds mental health in our society.
“Signing the Blue Light pledge means we are committed to a set of actions that will support our staff to talk more openly about their well-being, and to help each other to improve mental health in our workplace.
“Our aim is that none of our staff or volunteers will feel unsupported if they experience mental ill health. We’ll achieve this by continuing to give mental well-being a high profile in our workplace and by encouraging open conversations about mental health at work.
“The support for this initiative from staff has been superb. We already have a group of volunteer Blue Light champions who’ve been trained to be a first point of contact for their colleagues and I hope this network will grow as we progress with our pledge commitments.”
Watch Manager Paul Foster, a TWFES Blue Light champion, said: “The Blue Light programme offers us an opportunity to make a difference to how we think and talk about mental health right across the Service.
“We already have a positive attitude to mental health as an organisation but we recognise we can learn and do much more as individual members of staff to be open and supportive on mental health issues.
“Training volunteers in awareness of mental health is one of the steps we’ve taken to implement the Blue Light Programme. It has helped managers to be supportive of colleagues experiencing mental health problems and raised awareness levels across the Service.”
The Blue Light programme is run by mental health charity Mind.
Andrew Howie, of Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, said: “I’d like to congratulate Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service for signing up to the Blue Light Challenge.
“We know that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in any given year. But our independent research shows that the estimated quarter of a million people who work and volunteer in the emergency services are even more at risk of experiencing a mental health problem than the general population, but are less likely to get support.
“The Blue Light programme can make a big difference in changing that picture and we’re delighted Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service is being so positive in showing how that can be done.”
TWFRS is one of two emergency services in the North East to have signed the pledge, the other being the North East Ambulance Service.