AF&RS staff share their experiences of mental health during Mental Health Awareness Week
Staff from across Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AF&RS) have worked together with Bath and Bristol Mind on an impactful campaign to raise awareness of mental health and encourage those experiencing mental ill-health to reach out.
Two fire engines – one from Bath and one from Temple Station in Bristol – have been wrapped to convey the message that although we may appear strong, powerful, and resilient – at work and in our personal lives – we might be struggling with our mental health. Working for AF&RS, we are work tirelessly to ensure the protection and safety of our communities and remain committed and professional even if we’re not feeling OK.
During Mental Health Awareness Week – 15-21 May 2023 – we will be sharing several videos on social media featuring statements from staff on times they may be struggling even when feeling outwardly strong. We are grateful to all staff that were brave enough to share their experiences for these videos and their statements were read out by actors. Please find the statements in full below:
“I've never thought of myself as being strong, I was bullied in school and had this mentality that I wasn't good enough. I've had to work a lot on my confidence when becoming a firefighter. I needed to learn to be confident in my abilities and trust my judgement and I only really started to feel like I belonged in this job when I was paid a compliment by a teacher after an event and was told I was inspiring and doing a good job. That was the first time I felt really strong when under the surface I was always second guessing myself and questioning if I was good enough.”
“On a weekly occurrence I am responsible for leading my team. With this responsibility I am thought of and observed to be powerful, strong and resilient as well as everyone within my team. Along with the normal stresses of everyday life, homelife and work life, there is also the added stresses and strains of dealing with traumatic, tragic and emotional situations. My mental health is certainly challenged on a regular basis but having the awareness and knowledge to speak out to others and not be afraid to talk about it, ensures my mental health stays healthy!”
“I've been that person who has helped others with their mental health and kept them going during dark times, but I've struggled since I was a teenager myself and am very good at hiding it. I'm great at dealing with problems at the time, like I'm in autopilot, but then I suffer the effects afterwards. In November 2020 I reached a point where previous trauma and other life events had gotten too much for me to handle and I had made the decision to end my life - nobody around me had any idea. I must have had a guardian angel looking out for me because my friend told me some news, clueless of the situation I was in, that made me stay. People can look perfectly fine from the outside, but inside is a living hell - be gentle to others because you have no idea what they're going through.”
“My husband and I both have anxiety and there are times where we both need to be strong for one another. There have been times where I've felt stressed and anxious - catastrophising about certain situations - and I try to hide it if my partner isn't well. We're very open about how we're feeling but there are times I want to be strong if he needs support.”
By sharing these experiences, we hope that more of our colleagues will feel comfortable coming forward and opening up about their own mental health and wellbeing. Within AF&RS, we have a number of services in place to support those who may be experiencing mental ill-health and encourage those who need help to use them.
Everyone, whoever you are, can suffer from mental health. If you need help with your mental health, Bath and Bristol Mind, two of the local, independent charities affiliated to the national mental health charity, Mind, are in place to support you. Please find their contact details below:
Bath Mind: visit bathmind.org.uk or call 0808 175 1369
Bristol Mind: visit bristolmind.org.uk or 0117 980 0370