Worrying data shows that a significant percentage of emergency services workers in the South East say they have experienced mental health problems.
The mental health charity Mind conducted a survey of emergency responders in the region, which includes Bedfordshire and Thame Valley police forces, the East of England and South Central Ambulance services and Beds, Herts and Bucks Fire and Rescue Services.
The survey found that 92% of respondents had felt stressed, had low mood or suffered from poor mental health while at work.
And 49% of workers had taken time off because of mental health issues.
Another part of the survey found that 64% of respondents had suffered from either depression, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
37% said that they had taken antidepressants or other medications for a mental health problem, while 27% said that they had considered taking their own life at some stage.
Almost all of the respondents, 89% in fact, believed that their employers needed to invest more into supporting their staff’s mental health.
Faye McGuinness, Blue Light programme manager for Mind, said: “It’s shocking that our Blue Light workers are experiencing such high levels of mental health problems, low mood and stress, with one in four thinking about leaving the emergency services, and even contemplating suicide, as a result.
“The challenging nature of the job - with its unique pressures - can put staff and volunteers at greater risk of developing a mental health problem.
“That’s why it’s so important support is made available - to ensure dedicated workers are at their best and ready to carry out these incredibly difficult and life-saving roles we often take for granted.
“Lots of our respondents said they feel they would be treated differently if they had a mental health problem, and wouldn’t feel comfortable coming forward if they were struggling with their mental health.
“Thankfully, there is a great deal of good practice happening at an organisational level across the country, as a result of activity being delivered via Mind’s Blue Light Programme, for example our Blue Light champions who have so bravely shared their own experiences and encouraged others to follow suit.
“In the last year, we’ve made some great strides in raising awareness, tackling stigma and encouraging working environments where people feel able to talk about mental health.
“But it’s not possible to change working cultures overnight. We need to see an ongoing commitment to prioritising the emotional wellbeing of emergency services workers to enable them to continue doing their vital work serving our community.
“We’re trying to secure more government funding to support the emotional wellbeing of our Blue Light staff and volunteers, particularly given the extremely and consistently high levels of stress, anxiety and poor mood reported by emergency services workers.”