04/08/2017

Torch Relay to Raise Awareness of Blue Light Mental Health

Emergency service workers are to raise awareness of mental health as they take a special torch on a tour of Cleveland.

The Our Blue Light Torch will travel with Cleveland Police and Cleveland Fire Brigade for a week from Sunday 6th August to engage staff and the public in talking about mental health. The week will culminate in staff taking the torch on the Lyke Wake Walk, a 40-mile-trek to raise funds for Heads Together and Mind.

A national survey by mental health charity Mind found that over 90% of emergency services workers have suffered stress and one in twenty have made an attempt to take their own life.

The Our Blue Light Torch was developed by two employees of North West Ambulance Service to highlight the hidden problem within the blue light community.

Both Cleveland Police and Cleveland Fire Brigade have initiatives in place to improve wellbeing and offer support to staff who need help.

Cleveland Police Inspector, Phil Spencer, who has coordinated the torch tour in Cleveland, said: “Emergency service workers deal with horrific tragedies and incidents as part of their job, incidents that most people do not even witness in a lifetime.

“We’re still not talking about mental health enough in the emergency services, and it’s only when we do begin raising awareness that people realise how common it is to experience mental ill health. We’ve done some great work in Cleveland Police by training over 50 personnel as Blue Light Champions to signpost people in need.

“It’s great to welcome the torch to Cleveland and spread the word that it’s ok to seek help, and that help is available.”

Ian Hayton, Chief Fire Officer of Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “Our employees are exposed to a wide range of traumatic and stressful situations and it is vital that their mental health is regarded with the same importance as their physical health.

“By taking part in the Our Blue Light Baton Relay we are demonstrating that we want to make our working environment one where people can talk openly about their issues and are able to obtain the necessary help they need.”

“We have a comprehensive employee assistance programme which offers all staff access to a 24 hour helpline staffed by professional counsellors who can provide impartial and confidential advice on matters which may create anxiety or stress and the Brigade also automatically offers support to colleagues following attendance at a traumatic incident.”