Dealing with difficult situations is part of the job in the ambulance service, but the pandemic has made it particularly challenging. This page outlines the issues, with ideas for coping and links to further help.
Blue Light: Mental health in the ambulance service
Working in the ambulance service can be highly demanding. It’s particularly important to protect your mental health and wellbeing – and to do this on a daily basis, not just after experiencing big, traumatic events.
That was always true, even before the pandemic. But things have suddenly got tougher, and thinking about your mental health has never been more important than it is now.
Things have got tougher
Mind’s research has found that, since the pandemic began, workload has increased right across the emergency services. Staff have faced extra challenges to their mental health, and many are experiencing stress and anxiety as a result.
Over three quarters of ambulance staff told us that their mental health had got worse – and in many cases, much worse – since the start of the pandemic. You often find yourself putting the demands of your job before your own needs. There isn’t the time or energy to think about keeping yourself well – and a third of emergency staff told us they didn’t look for help because they didn’t think their issues were serious enough.
In a recent blog on this site, Ben, from East of England Ambulance Service, shared his experience. “With all of the added stress, I am having difficulty with switching off. At work, we are making life changing decisions in more difficult situations than ever before. These decisions are ones we are taking home with us.”
Perhaps that sounds familiar?
Supporting ambulance staff’s mental health through the pandemic and beyond
Mind’s Blue Light programme is working with the emergency services community to provide advice, resources and ideas to support you in staying well, especially at this exceptional time. We’re working hard to spread the message that, in the ambulance service, it’s OK to seek help.
It’s not just about self-care, though. Support from colleagues in the same situation is really important too. And given that 44% of ambulance staff told us that pressure from management was affecting their mental health, it’s clear that line managers and workplaces have a major part to play.
So, we’ve gathered some ideas, tools and resources to help you in keeping yourself and those around you well. Below you’ll find some starting points, directly based on what 863 ambulance staff, working during the pandemic, told us is the most important at the moment.
This page will keep evolving based on feedback from the ambulance community, and we’ll be adding new resources and sources of help when they become available throughout the year.
Resources in this toolkit:
Managing stress and anxiety (Ambulance)
Working in ambulance service is a job where you may often feel like you are under a lot of pressure, and it’s natural to feel stressed or anxious. Mind have created a PDF booklet aimed at ambulance service personnel which focuses on the unique mental health challenges you might be experiencing as part of your role.
Even during the COVID-19 crisis, ambulance staff must deal with traumatic situations every day. The Ambulance Staff Charity have collated a number of resources to support your mental health during this time.
Lifelines Scotland is a project designed to help first responders to stay well, beat stress and boost your resilience. It includes advice and links especially tailored to help anyone in the ambulance service who is working in Scotland.
As part of Our Frontline, NHS and care staff in England can call Samaritans' dedicated confidential support line free on 0800 069 6222, 7am–11pm every day. Staff anywhere else in the UK can call on 116 123 to speak with a trained listening volunteer.
As part of Our Frontline, Shout provides a free 24/7 text support service for emergency services staff and first responders. Text BLUELIGHT to 85258 to talk by text with a trained crisis volunteer.
Mind's research shows that emergency service staff are more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 - you might be worried about catching it as a result of your ambulance service role, or passing it on to your loved ones. This PDF guide from the British Psychological Society explains more, with ideas that can help you cope with this anxiety.
Coronavirus information pack
Ambulance staff have faced a unique challenge during the coronavirus pandemic. To help, the Ambulance Staff Charity have created a series of PDF documents designed to help ambulance staff to cope during this difficult time.
Working in healthcare or the emergency services, it's likely you have to make difficult decisions that affect other people's lives on a daily basis. This could put you at risk of a moral injury.