North Yorkshire emergency service workers ‘suffering in silence’

Mental health charities and emergency service workers in Harrogate have welcomed a government pilot scheme supporting emergency services who experience depression and mental health problems.

Monday, 23rd March 2015, 6:00 pm
Firefighters battle the blaze on Albert Street. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1403181AM14)

The £4m Blue Light Programme will be introduced in April and will support emergency service personnel to speak out if they are depressed and access resilience training and courses.

While one in four people will experience mental health problems, the risk for emergency service workers increases due to their nature of work, according to a mental health charity in Harrogate.

Val Longley, service manager at Harrogate Mind, believes that emergency front line service workers are less likely to seek help to cope with traumatic experience because they believe it is ‘part of their role’.

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She said: “We have had a number of people from emergency services use Harrogate Mind over the years so it would be good if there was some funding made available to offer some post traumatic stress disorder within North Yorkshire.

“There is an element within that front line role that that is part of their job and that they should accept that but they need some specific support.

“People who are diagnosed with post traumatic stress may not be aware of their condition at the time because the aggression and situations they face becomes part of their day to day living.

“If you were to look at the mental health of people in that role, depression and post traumatic stress could have an impact on people and maybe why they retire. It’s a huge area that needs exploring.”

Research by Mind has revealed that 55 per cent of blue light workers surveyed have suffered mental health problems compared with 26 per cent in the general workforce and are also less likely to report issues.

Simon Wall, watch manager at Harrogate Fire Station, believes the figures portray an accurate representation of attitudes in the fire and rescue service and said too many firefighters in North Yorkshire ‘suffer in silence’.

He said: “It’s a problem in North Yorkshire, there’s a lot of people suffering with depression or mental health problems but actually suffering with it in silence.

“The situations affects people’s morale and then that person becomes withdrawn and goes back inside them rather than doing something about it.

“You always deal with pressured situations here but it’s like any anything, people deal with it on their own. However, there are mechanisms of support in place and I think we have several people in Harrogate who have taken these up.

“North Yorkshrie has got good mechanisms of support in place but people don’t always utilise it. It’s about making sure that people are getting that help instead of letting that pressure build up.

“We have to start looking at the various options available because, whilst there is funding there, workers don’t always make the initial contact.”