Dealing with difficult situations is part of the job in the fire 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 fire service
Working in the fire 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.
Two thirds of fire service 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. After all, fire and rescue work can’t be put on hold. It can be hard to find 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.
You’re probably used to thinking about serious issues and intense situations; you might well be trained for it. But it can still take its toll sooner or later. In a recent blog on this site, Becci, an Assistant Operations Manager for London Fire Brigade, shared what it’s like for her: “Although I have been involved in some very serious incidents, I feel none have ever affected me enough to really impact greatly on my mental health, though that call or that incident could be just around the corner. It is important that I remind myself that it can be a cumulative effect.”
Worth thinking about?
Supporting the fire service’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 fire service, it’s OK to seek help.
It’s not just about self-care, though. In terms of where to find support, 39% of fire service staff had sought information through their employers to support their mental health – and this was second only to friends and family as a source. Clearly, the workplace has 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 277 fire service staff, working during the pandemic, told us is the most important at the moment.
This page will keep evolving based on feedback from fire services, and we’ll be adding new resources and sources of help when they become available throughout the year.
Photo by Paul Wood
Resources in this toolkit:
Mind's research shows that emergency service staff are likely to be concerned about COVID-19 - you might be worried about catching it as a result of your fire 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.
Whatever you're going through, Samaritans are always there to listen. As part of Our Frontline, essential services staff who are working on the frontlines can call free on 116 123 to speak in confidence 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 has found 17% of those working in the fire service have started using alcohol or drugs to cope with the stress of the coronavirus. This web page can help you find out if your drinking habits are problematic, and offers non-judgmental advice on managing your alcohol consumption.
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 fire service who is working in Scotland.
Working in the fire and rescue 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 fire service personnel which focuses on the unique mental health challenges you might be experiencing as part of your role.