More than a quarter of emergency services workers have considered suicide


More than a quarter of emergency services workers in England and Wales have considered taking their own lives, new figures have revealed.

Research from mental health charity Mind found 27% of the 1,641 "blue light" staff and volunteers surveyed had contemplated suicide due to stress and poor mental health while working.

Nearly two thirds (63%) said they had considered leaving their roles in the police, fire, ambulance and search and rescue services for the same reasons.

The data also revealed 92% of respondents had experienced stress, low mood and poor mental health at some point while working for the emergency services.

An ambulance with its blue lights on

Mental health problems - such as depression, anxiety disorder, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia - were experienced by 62% of people while working in their current or previous blue light role.

Mind has been providing support for emergency services staff and volunteers through its Blue Light Programme over the past year.

Faye McGuinness, programme manager, said the statistics were "shocking" and called for more to be done to support emergency workers.

"The challenging nature of the job - with its unique pressures - can put staff and volunteers at greater risk of developing a mental health problem," she added.

Stress painted on a mirror

"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."

She acknowledged that it would not be possible to change working cultures overnight and said there was the need for "an ongoing commitment to prioritising the emotional well-being of emergency services workers".

Esmail Rifai, 50, from Blackburn, who works for North West Ambulance Service, recently returned to work following a long period of illness - work-related anxiety and depression. He also lost a work colleague and friend to suicide.

Mental health information leaflet

He said: "My colleague taking his own life had a devastating effect upon me at a time when I was coming to terms with my own mental health, but this also spurred me on to help others who are suffering silently.

"At work I often take on more than time permits, which inevitably takes its toll and ultimately ends up with my own mental health deteriorating.

"The pressures of cutbacks and ever-increasing workloads are not only physically but mentally exhausting not just for me but lots of people like me working in public services especially within the emergency services."

Rifai added his involvement in the Blue Light Programme had given him some solace.

A search for help for suicidal feelings on the Mind mental health charity website

"We are not super humans and we are just as prone to illness as anyone else if not more," he said.

Of those polled, 86% agreed or strongly agreed that more emotional support needs to be made available to emergency services personnel.

Despite the high prevalence of mental health problems, the survey revealed that only 48% of respondents had taken time off work due to stress, low mood or poor mental health.

Mind believes the results could indicate there is still a taboo around talking about these issues and a determination to continue going into work even when unwell.