Landmark mental health commitment for blue light workers announced

A new package of measures to ensure a uniform approach to supporting the mental health of those working in the emergency services has been announced.

Nov 25, 2021
By Tony Thompson

In a UK first, the chief officers of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), National Fire Chiefs Council and Association of Ambulance Chief Executives have made a public pledge on behalf of their organisations at The Royal Foundation’s Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium.

The pledge forms part of the Blue Light Together package of mental health support announced today by the Duke of Cambridge, which has seen The Royal Foundation working together with emergency service leaders and partner charities to change the workplace culture on mental health and provide specialist support to emergency responders and their families.

Speaking at today’s symposium, which brought together 200 leaders from across fire, ambulance, police and search and rescue, as well as the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and Mind chief executive officer Paul Farmer, the Duke of Cambridge said: “This is an unprecedented agreement, and it sends a powerful message to all emergency responders that mental health is, and will remain, a firm priority for the UK’s emergency services.

“It means that, for the first time, a uniform set of standards for supporting the mental health of emergency responders will be adopted and integrated into their workplaces. This is a crucial step in ensuring that the staff and volunteers who work so tirelessly for our nation can be properly protected.”

The Mental Health at Work Commitment for the emergency services means that every emergency service organisation in the UK will:

  • Prioritise mental health in the workplace by developing and delivering a systematic programme of activity;
  • Proactively ensure work design and organisational culture drive positive mental health outcomes;
  • Promote an open culture around mental health;
  • Increase organisational confidence and capability;
  • Provide mental health tools and support; and
  • Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting.

Built on a framework from the 2017 Thriving at Work employment review, co-authored by Mr Farmer at MIND, the commitment will be integrated into each organisation’s existing wellbeing strategies. They are accompanied by a Wellbeing Impact Assessment to apply to new and existing policies under review and tailored guidance informed by mental health charities and emergency service experts in recognition of the unique challenges faced by their workforces. The commitment, signed by the chief officers on behalf of their members, includes a note welcoming future assessments by the respective independent oversight bodies to further improve mental health support.

Supporting the commitment, further measures announced today under the Blue Light Together include:

  • The ‘Blue Light Together’ resource website – providing blue light workers, their friends, families and retirees with specialised information and advice tailored to their needs and experiences. The website includes specialised information and advice to help emergency responders with mental health, real-life stories and tips from colleagues working in the field, and guides for employers so that they can support their teams with their wellbeing; and
  • Blue Light Together Network of Emergency Services Therapists – working in partnership with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), The Royal Foundation is funding the creation of a directory of therapists who have experience of specialising in addressing the complex mental health needs of emergency responders and will be made available to all those in need of support. Working alongside the BACP, the therapists will be offered ongoing peer support and continuing professional development to ensure they can provide the best possible care to emergency responders. This will be accessible via the Blue Light Together website.

Martin Hewitt, chair of the NPCC, said: “The wellbeing of our officers is a priority for all police chiefs, as we know that policing is by its nature a stressful job, and that officers are exposed to some of life’s most challenging situations on a daily basis.

“The work being done by The Royal Foundation, led by the Duke of Cambridge, is of the utmost importance and we are proud to contribute to it. Such partnerships allow us to make great strides in changing attitudes towards mental health in society, and provide faster and more effective support for those who need it the most.”

Gill Scott-Moore, chief executive of Police Care UK, added: “Last year, Police Care UK saw a 36 per cent increase requests for help. Our research has demonstrated that one in five of our police are living with trauma-related stress and PTSD. Many more struggle with anxiety and depression. Protecting our communities can come with a high cost to police mental health and both they and their families need far greater support.

“Today those unmet needs and those of others across emergency services are brought into sharp focus and we hope that this event is a landmark moment in tackling stigma and enabling access to much needed mental health support and advice.”

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