Research among workers in the emergency services has found ambulance staff rate their mental health the most poorly.
This is according to the mental health charity Mind, which surveyed almost 4,000 staff and volunteers across police, fire and ambulance services in the UK.
Although mental health had worsened across all of the emergency services, ambulance staff felt the greatest impact from the pandemic. Three-quarters said their mental health had worsened since the onset of Covid-19, compared with 66% of police and 65% of fire service staff.
Almost a third (33%) of ambulance staff rated their mental health as “poor” or “very poor”, compared with 23% of police and 20% of fire service respondents who said the same.
Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, said: “We know that even before the coronavirus outbreak, there were high rates of poor mental health across the emergency services.
“Our survey data and interviews with 999 staff and volunteers indicate that coronavirus has made these roles even more demanding, as staff are faced with making more difficult and potentially life-and-death decisions on a daily basis, as well as dealing with death and bereavement, in addition to concerns for their own health and wellbeing and that of their loved ones.
“It’s really important that our hardworking emergency responders are able to access support for their wellbeing if and when they need it.”
Mind is providing wellbeing support, training and resources to all 999 staff and volunteers via its Blue Light Programme, which is supported by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Covid-19 Response Fund.
“We also hope to help employers embed best practice so that staff and volunteers can continue to access the right support for them in the short and longer-term, as we begin to come to terms with the true mental health impact of the pandemic,” said Mamo.
Responding to the findings, the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives’ deputy managing director, Anna Parry, said: “Healthy ambulance staff are integral to the services we provide to patients which is why the data emanating from the Mind survey is particularly worrying. However, with demand for ambulance services at its highest ever level, alongside the additional unique demands of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is perhaps unsurprising that our front-line staff are experiencing pressures that are impacting upon their mental health and this is something the sector is working hard to mitigate.
“Promoting safe and healthy working environments for all ambulance staff, as well as volunteers, is a key national strategic aim for AACE and we are working with our members to ensure that progressive employment policies are in place that are designed to assist the creation of a good work-life balance and, in turn, help support staff who suffer from stress related illness – be it work or non-work related.”