The Fire Fighters Charity has long supported the mental health of individuals from across the UK’s fire services community, providing dedicated psychological therapy services to help its beneficiaries manage issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. We understand the short- and long-term pressures of working in and around the fire service and how this environment can impact upon an individual’s well-being, as well as on their relationships and family life.
The Fire Fighters Charity was founded in 1943 to support the bereaved families of firefighters killed during the Blitz, and in the intervening 75 years the variety of services and support offered to the UK’s fire services community has evolved to meet the changing needs of the people who work within it. The demands placed upon those who work in this community – in physical, psychological and social terms – has similarly changed and we have therefore had to adapt as a charity to ensure that we are always offering appropriate and timely support that reflects the needs of the community at any given time. With 75 years of history behind us, however, we have developed an innate understanding of the fire community, making us uniquely placed to offer services that are custom-made and custom-delivered to meet the needs of the fire services community.
In more recent years the demand for psychological support for mental-health difficulties, from across the UK’s fire and rescue services, has grown; depressed mood, stress, anxiety, relationship problems, anger issues, injury and illness, poor sleep and the effects of traumatic incidents are common reasons why people turn to us for support, whether in work themselves, retired or members of a beneficiary’s immediate family. We also know that how and when these difficulties occur is impossible to predict. For some the psychological impact of an event may cause immediate problems, for others it may not hit home until after they retire. Our own data has also shown that 38% of beneficiaries with a musculoskeletal problem self-refer to our psychological therapy teams for psychological support too, suggesting that physical injuries and conditions also have a significant psychological impact on individuals. In total, 47% of those accessing our services had some form of psychological support (2016/2017).
Far from a ‘one size fits all’ approach, the mental-health support that we offer is tailored to meet the specific needs of each person we work with. No one person is the same and the reasons they come to us are unique, so we use a variety of treatment interventions and therapeutic approaches to ensure that person is provided with a programme of support that is specific to their need. Taking the time to carefully assess each person’s need allows us to ensure that we can provide the best support, in the most appropriate way, whether that’s a residential stay at one of our centres, support over the telephone or through digital means, in their local community or by onward referral. We will always endeavour to provide support that will equip each person with the tools they need to move forward with their life in a positive way. Our service also tends to be short term and intensive, which we have found to be the preferred approach for many as it minimises time away from work and family. Where possible we also look to support couples and families together, allowing loved ones to support each other and to learn how to do so once they return home. Indeed, equipping our beneficiaries with the tools they need to support themselves and help in their own recovery is a central part of what we do.
Psychological support offered
Families or individuals seeking support can contact The Fire Fighters Charity via our website, www.firefighterscharity.org.uk or on 0800 389 8820.
- We will then work closely with each person to assess their specific needs and consider how best to tailor a programme of support for them. This could include psychological education and information about themes such as sleep, change, resilience, loss and trauma reactions.
- One-to-one, face-to-face psychological/counselling sessions with a psychological therapist at one of our three centres.
- Group interventions which will encompass psychological, physical and social elements.
- A blend of psychological and physical support to encourage long-term recovery.
- Guidance and information on topics such as coping strategies, psychological self-care, exercise and relaxation sessions.
- Online, telephone and local community support.
The effect of trauma
With the changing job roles and demands of fire and rescue personnel we have seen an increase in the need for support from those attending trauma-related incidents and experiencing post-trauma stress. We provide an environment where beneficiaries feel safe to explore their reactions to what they may have seen and experienced, and the traumatic response that may follow. Supporting those who are still affected by historic events remain part of our clinical work and whilst we have worked with trauma responses we also recognise the benefits from proactive work, information and support. By making it easier for people to access support earlier, we are helping to facilitate those early conversations, providing support, advice and guidance when it’s needed for those who are struggling with trauma responses, whether in the immediate aftermath or thereafter. For those living with or working with individuals who are finding the emotional rollercoaster, the flashbacks, anger and mood swings unmanageable, we have often been a first point of contact in finding a way through the various pathways to accessing psychological support and starting recovery.
As a charity we are aware that beneficiaries often contact us when they are at their most vulnerable and need our support and we have seen a steady increase in demand for our psychological support services over recent years.
Our strategic plan for 2017–20 therefore places an increased emphasis on mental-health support, making it a top priority for the Charity. Consequently, our Harcombe House site and our psychological support services are changing to meet this growing need. The aim is for a wider variety of therapeutic options to be delivered in our residential settings and the community, allowing us to help more individuals, couples and families get the support they need, when they need it.
However, to achieve this goal, we need the continued support of our donors. It is only through their committed generosity that we are able to keep our doors open each year as the Charity is primarily funded by the one-off and recurring donations of our beneficiaries and supporters. To meet the growing mental-health needs of the fire services community we therefore need more people to donate to support The Fire Fighters Charity in the future. You can do so by visiting www.firefighterscharity.org.uk/donate and giving what you can. Thank you, your support will make a world of difference.
For more information, go to www.firefighterscharity.org.uk