SFRS launches formal commitment to protect the wellbeing of staff

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The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has today unveiled its formal commitment to supporting the health and wellbeing of staff who work to protect communities.

The service’s Mental Health Strategy sets out for the first time a formal pledge to encourage those who are suffering mental ill health to reach out and seek support.

It will also ensure that employees are trained and equipped to spot the signs of mental ill health in colleagues and take appropriate steps to secure assistance for them.

The strategy has also been welcomed by Scotland’s Minister for Community Safety, Ash Denham MSP.

SFRS Chief Officer, Martin Blunden, said it was important to issue a clear message to all staff that mental ill health is a key priority and should be treated the same as physical ill health.

He said: "Our service works very hard and, at times, through the most challenging of circumstances to keep our communities safe.

“That effort includes not only frontline firefighters and our colleagues in operations control but our support staff who work tirelessly in the background to keep our service moving.

“They are proud to serve but there is no doubt that challenges such as significant workload or exposure to traumatic experience can have a really detrimental impact on health and wellbeing.

“That is why we have launched our Mental Health Strategy – supporting people to speak out and seek assistance or assist them to spot the signs in others and take appropriate action.”

The SFRS Mental Health Strategy was drafted by Deputy Assistant Chief Officer John Miller who recently spoke with Prince William about the efforts of emergency service staff to champion mental health.

The strategy was then considered by the Senior Leadership Team as well as members of the SFRS Board before it went through staff consultation. It was formally approved by the SFRS Senior Management Board on Wednesday, June 17.

It also reflects the Scottish Government’s own Mental Health Strategy and its core aims are to remove stigma and improve mental health literacy with a focus on prevention and creating an open and positive culture.

A Mental Health Board chaired by Liz Barnes, the SFRS Director of People and Organisational Development, will now ensure that the strategy is embedded across the service.

The SFRS already has a dedicated health and wellbeing team to support staff who can be referred to counsellors at the Rivers Centre in Edinburgh as well as a formal partnership with Lifelines Scotland.

Chief Officer Blunden continued: "We'll always be there for any staff member experiencing mental ill health, but it's vital that we are proactive in our efforts.

"We want to emphasise a supportive culture across this service, where people can speak openly and honestly about challenges both at work and personally  without fear of judgement or stigma.

"Mental health must be at the forefront of all we do and all that we plan for as a national emergency service."

Minister Ms Denham said: “Our emergency services work extremely hard to keep people across Scotland safe every day and their welfare is crucially important. They often face challenging and at times dangerous situations, which can have an impact on their mental wellbeing.

“I am very pleased to see this commitment from the SFRS which clearly sets out how they intend to support their staff in both active prevention work, while also providing support and appropriate treatment at times of need.”


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