City throws spotlight on mental health in emergency services

"We don't know what we've destructed"

They dedicate their lives to saving others, but this week emergency service workers were asked to put their own wellbeing first as part of a City-led campaign to promote mental health awareness across the sector.

More than 300 police officers, firefighters and ambulance joined City firms on 26 April for a packed programme of workshops, activities and events organised by mental health network Thrive in the City.

Activities ranged from yoga workshops to information sessions on coping mechanisms for high-stress environments and were hosted by Thrive in the City partner organisations including the City of London Corporation, Thomson Reuters and the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

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City of London police officers joined in a day of mental health awareness workshops. Photo by Beckie Fraser

London mayor Sadiq Khan praised the initiative, which comes amidst concerns that government cuts are stretching services to breaking point and negatively impacting the mental health of its workers.

Figures from the charity Mind suggest that as many as one in four people had contemplated taking their own lives due to stress and poor mental health while working for the emergency services.

The survey of 1600 staff and volunteers from police, fire, ambulance and search and rescue services found that two thirds of respondents had contemplated leaving their job because of stress or poor mental health, and 62 per cent said they had experienced a mental health problem while working in the sector.

“London’s emergency services workers do heroic work but it’s so important to remember that the situations they find themselves in can be hugely stressful and have a serious effect on their mental health,” Mr Khan said.

“Today’s Thrive in the City event will play a huge role in improving awareness and understanding of the mental health of our emergency service workers and achieve real improvements in support and care for those who need it “

Thrive in the City co-founder Julia Hillman said the aim was to create “a safe physical space” for emergency services workers to focus on their mental wellbeing.

“In recent months, we have seen our Emergency Services deal heroically with many a tragic event across our capital, but it is the daily pressures that can have a substantial impact on our mental wellbeing,“ she said.

Met Police chief inspector Louise Puddlefoot of the Met Police agreed, adding officers “have to contend with a lot.”

“I know officers that have been deeply affected by the terrorist attacks, Grenfell Tower, and the extreme violence and sadness that they have witnessed whilst on duty across London,” she said.

“It is so important to acknowledge the impact that the job has, and how important mental health is.  I hope that this extraordinary event will be the first of many.”