Promoting the Mental Health of Personnel in an Emergency Services Setting

 

Emergency services personnel are exposed to trauma sometimes on a daily basis. They also face constantly increasing demands and heavy workloads that even their famous culture of camaraderie can’t protect them from. All of this combines to make them more at risk of stress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD than the general population.

Personnel working in the emergency services might feel that they can’t speak about how they feel due to stigma, and don’t tend to take time off work even if they’re unwell because they feel they are letting their colleagues and the public down if they do.

Promoting mental health in the workplace

Investing in mental health not only makes for a healthier workforce, it makes good business sense. When organisations are proactive about mental health, productivity is higher, employees are more likely to remain with the organisation, there’s less absenteeism, and fewer problems with performance or morale.

Organisations must have mental health and wellbeing strategies in place. Some strategies will be more difficult to implement because of cost or other factors, but some can be introduced with minimal cost.

Promoting the mental health of emergency services: good practice

Be systematic with risk management

Each emergency service deals with a huge range of situations, and so personnel are exposed to a variety of risks that might affect their mental health and wellbeing. Having a risk assessment specific to each service is a good starting point for putting together an effective mental health strategy.

Introduce a mental health strategy

Having a strategy is great, but implementing it into work activities each day, reviewing the plan, and learning lessons from it is where it will really come into its own.

Develop leaders

The actions and behaviours of leaders and managers can influence how personnel might cope with the demands of their job. Good managers will know when someone is struggling, whether it’s with their mental health or something else. Providing training to managers to develop their confidence is essential; whether it’s the confidence to lead effectively in a crisis situation or having a difficult conversation with an employee.

Tackle stigma

This is an issue in the emergency services where personnel might feel they can’t talk about their mental health or how they feel without being judged or bullied in some way. Tackling stigma is not expensive to do; it just requires some understanding and courage to spread the message that it’s okay to not be okay.

Strategies for promoting mental health on the front line

Wellbeing programmes and practices should be integrated into the work routine, like mindfulness programmes, meditation and relaxation sessions, or exercise programmes. Access to mental health support should be promoted and wellbeing measures should be aimed at reducing stress and preventing mental ill health, not just treating it once it’s occurred.

As every emergency service worker is likely to have to deal with a crisis or a traumatic incident, they should be prepared as much as possible for how to manage the incident itself and they should be given support in the aftermath.

Mental health and wellbeing support should not only be offered while someone is in service. Many personnel will have encountered situations during their career that will continue to affect them even years later, so offering support and advice on a long-term basis may also be necessary.

How we can help

We use our expertise in workforce wellbeing, individual and organisational wellbeing, and performance and trauma management to help front-line emergency services staff become better equipped to manage the pressures and challenges they face. The services we offer include tailored support for personnel, their managers and their families, stress-relieving strategies, and therapeutic interventions.

For more information on our work with the emergency services, contact Maureen on 07939 845920 or via maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk , or contact Kirsty Knight on 07816 923789 or at kirsty@openmindstherapy.co.uk