At today’s Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium, supported by HRH The Prince of Wales and The Royal Foundation, The Fire Fighters Charity announced the launch of a new 24/7 Crisis Line, to directly combat suicide amongst present and past fire service personnel.
Alongside a powerful awareness film reflecting on how suicide has no ‘type,’ the Charity and fire and rescue services have launched the new Crisis Line in response to an identified gap in provision and to directly support fire service personnel at a point of crisis.
The Crisis Line launch follows comprehensive research into the health and wellbeing of the UK fire sector – carried out by Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and commissioned jointly by The Fire Fighters Charity and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).
Published earlier this year, the NTU study surveyed more than 3,000 UK fire and rescue service personnel, finding that mental wellbeing across the service is being impacted by issues such as sleep disruption, occupational stress, burnout, anxiety and depression. The Fire Fighters Charity, meanwhile, has been made aware of at least 20 deaths by suicide over the last three years, supporting many of the families and colleagues of those who have taken their own lives.
The launch of the new 24/7 Crisis Line – funded in its first year by the Blue Light Card Foundation (BLCF) and for two subsequent years by all fire and rescue services – follows the publication by the Charity in September of a suite of online suicide prevention and postvention resources for members of the fire services community impacted by suicide, or worried about themselves or someone else.
Dr Jill Tolfrey, Chief Executive of The Fire Fighters Charity, said of the new 24/7 Crisis Line:
“Every suicide is a tragedy and by launching our Crisis Line, we can offer specialised support to our beneficiaries. Whatever the time of day, there will be someone on the end of the phone who understands the unique pressures facing those who work in the emergency services, and who can offer the vital support that’s needed in that moment and thereafter, through immediate and ongoing support.
“I am delighted that we are working in partnership with The Blue Light Card Foundation, fire and rescue services and the National Fire Chiefs Council, together with the invaluable support of The Ambulance Staff Charity (TASC) – whose own crisis line has saved lives amongst ambulance service staff. This collaboration across the blue light sector, and with support from Nottingham Trent University, demonstrates a real commitment to tackling the issue of suicide amongst emergency services personnel, and we are proud to offer present and past fire service personnel a safe and confidential place to call when they need it most.”
Naomi Adie, General Manager of Blue Light Card Foundation, said:
“We’re delighted to have funded this vital crisis line for The Fire Fighters Charity. Platforms such as these are well-documented in their ability to provide vital, often life-saving support to those in need of immediate well-being assistance – an issue significantly magnified for those working within the fire service.
“We hope that this crisis line provides a safe and dedicated space for firefighters to seek support should they need to, and feel confident in the fact that help is always available, 24 hours a day, when needed.”
Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, Mark Hardingham, said:
“A death by suicide devastates family, friends, colleagues and the wider community. In fire and rescue services, where people often work in small teams, the impact of someone taking their own life has a devasting impact on the immediate team, the individual fire service and the entire fire and rescue services family.
“The new Crisis Line will provide immediate support where any member of the fire service community with suicidal thoughts can speak to a clinician any time of day or night and receive individual support. The new service has the full backing of the National Fire Chiefs Council and UK fire and rescue services.”
The Fire Fighters Charity 24/7 Crisis Line number is 0300 373 0896 and the charity’s suite of online resources for anyone worried about themselves or someone else can be accessed at: www.firefighterscharity.org.uk/safespace.