Fire service commits to improving mental health awareness across workforce

A PLEDGE has been signed by fire service workers to display commitment to helping those who experience mental health issues at work.

Coinciding with national Time To Talk Day, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has today (Thursday, February 2, 2017) entered into a partnership with MIND mental health charity in a bid to further improve health and wellbeing support for its staff members.

The Blue Light Time to Change pledge was signed by Assistant County Fire Officer (ACFO) Geoff Harris, Sheni Ravji-Smith, GMFRS lead on wellbeing, and Firefighter Gary Keary, representing the Fire Brigades Union, at the Service’s new training and safety centre, which is set to officially open in spring this year.

Director of Prevention and Protection, ACFO Geoff Harris, said: “GMFRS is really pleased to sign the Blue Light pledge to show our commitment to support and challenge mental health stigma and promote positive wellbeing in our Service.

“The pledge isn’t a quality mark or accreditation, and you cannot pass a test or submit a lengthy application to be able to sign into the agreement. Instead the pledge is supported by our own action plan which outlines our commitment as an employer to each and every one of our colleagues – whether this be our firefighters, support staff, cooks, cleaners, mechanics or volunteers.”

The pledge will now see the Service commit further to raising awareness of mental health with staff and ensuring that existing support mechanisms remain in place and are continually reviewed, and improved where possible.

Firefighter Jonny Ward, who is part of the health and wellbeing team at GMFRS, said: “To be accepted by MIND, we had to satisfy several criteria points in an action plan. The criteria fell into different categories, such as raising awareness about mental health, creating space for people with experience of mental health problems to share their stories, promote the Blue Light Champion role and equip managers to have conversations about mental health.

“GMFRS has achieved this improvement in wellbeing since setting up the health and wellbeing team in January 2016 and our action plan has already seen us appoint an occupational psychologist and exercise physiologist, as well as us introduce a debrief programme for staff members who have been involved with incidents, and better access to confidential support.”

By signing the pledge GMFRS has joined more than 400 employers across different sectors in England who are working to tackle mental health stigma to help keep staff members well.

Read more about MIND’s Blue Light pledge here:

Members of the public are encouraged to learn more about GMFRS’ health and wellbeing week by following #Wellbeing on Twitter.

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