Firefighter helps launch peer-to-peer mental health support group

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A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service firefighter has helped launch a bespoke mental health support group to improve the wellbeing of his colleagues.

Paisley firefighter John Mitchell had the idea for a peer-to-peer support group after witnessing some of his friends struggle with their mental wellbeing.

John launched "Talk Group 20" just over a year ago and it is now a fully operational support group, meeting in a community centre in Paisley and supporting staff across various ranks.

No referral is required and anyone can join the group - named as an addition to the SFRS's existing 19 channels of operational communication.

The SFRS has recently launched its first ever Mental Health Strategy and is committed to providing staff with the tools and knowledge to support their own mental health while being able to spot signs that others may be struggling.

Revealing the inspiration behind Talk Group 20, John said: "I saw a number of colleagues struggle with their mental health and thought it would be great to have somewhere we could meet, reason with our thoughts and stop things manifesting into bigger problems.

"The group has since gone from strength to strength  - and it shows that there was clearly a need.

"There are no ranks at our meetings, only people with shared experiences. For some, one meeting is enough to reason with their thoughts, but for others, coming back has helped.

"We essentially want to create an army of mental health first aiders who will be able to recognise if people are struggling."

For John, breaking down stigma is one of the most important goals.

He said: "We need to change the culture and get rid of this ridiculous 'man up attitude'. We are here to listen and sign-post to further support if required.

"Our group has someone available for people to speak to at any point.

"We are able to listen but also sign-post to other areas of support if further help is required.

"For me, there is nothing more rewarding than helping to save those who do the saving."


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