Northumbria Police has underlined its commitment to ending mental health stigma by signing the Blue Light Time to Change Pledge.
A significant number of people in the UK suffer or have suffered from mental health problems, but some are afraid to talk about their experiences because they fear it will affect their jobs or relationships.
Those working within the emergency services are even more likely to experience problems due to the very nature of their job and the difficult incidents they are faced with every day.
To support staff, Northumbria Police already has a number of networks in place, which includes a well-established occupational health service.
The force’s Disability Support Association offers assistance and guidance to anyone experiencing difficulties relating to disability, mental health and caring responsibilities.
And the supervisors are already undergoing mandatory training to develop their skills when it comes to supporting those within their team who are experiencing mental health problems.
But to underline the force’s commitment to these issues, Chief Constable Steve Ashman has signed up to the Blue Light programme, which will offer further support to the workforce.
He said: “As a member of the emergency services, we are faced with incredibly difficult situations every day and it is vitally important that we start to talk openly about mental health.
“We have always offered support to our officers and staff, but we can always do better and we need to create an environment where people can feel comfortable enough to share any issues they may have.”
The programme, which is led by the national charity Mind, promotes a better understanding of mental health problems and looks to end any form of discrimination in the workplace.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird also signed the pledge on behalf of the force.
She said: “Working for the emergency services can be extremely difficult at times and we are keen that support is available to colleagues when needed.
“The Chief Constable and I are fully committed to ensuring Northumbria Police is a place where colleagues can receive support when they need it.”
A plethora of emergency service employers and associations have pledged to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination within the workplace.
Other organisations that have already signed the pledge include Derbyshire Fire and Rescue, Kent Fire and Rescue, Leicestershire Police, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “Not only are many of our blue light personnel struggling with their mental health, but they’re less likely to seek support or have time off sick than the general workforce.
“Good mental health should be a priority in any workplace, but it is especially important that people exposed to traumatic or life-threatening situations – such as those working within the police, ambulance, fire and search and rescue services – receive appropriate support.
“By signing the Blue Light Time to Change Pledge, Northumbria Police is helping to fight stigma and promote positive mental health in emergency services.”
For more information about Mind and the Blue Light programme, visit www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/campaigns/bluelight