• The Gratitude Games aims to generate £10 million in funding to support Emergency Responders’ mental health over the next five years
  • The Cities of Manchester and Salford will hold the inaugural games next year for over 20,000 Emergency Responders and their families

1 in 4 (27%) emergency service workers have considered ending their lives due to stress and other factors1, and this has only been amplified by the pandemic, with 69%2 reporting that their mental health has worsened since the start of Covid-19.3

The first Gratitude Games will be hosted by the Cities of Manchester and Salford from 27th April – 29th May 2022 at leading venues, including the iconic Etihad campus. The Games will unite over 20,000 Emergency Responders and their families, across 20 different sports. From the whole of the NHS and the Fire and Rescue Service, to RNLI and Cave Rescue, workers from 17 different Emergency Services will be able to take part. The event will be open to all sporting abilities, and the triathlon and road running events (including a 5k and 10k), will also be open to the public.

The funds raised will be deployed through four existing specialist organisations – Police Care UK, The Fire Fighters Charity, The Ambulance Staff Charity and Duty to Care (NHS) - who collectively support all emergency responders to improve their mental health. Duty to Care, for example, provides NHS workers with free one to one online consultations. This is followed by wellbeing support including coaching, yoga and other holistic interventions.

The Gratitude Games is the brainchild of serving Buckinghamshire fire fighter Mike Downard and sports industry veteran Simon Rider, who founded the charity UK Emergency Services Giving (UKESG) to help ensure every Emergency Responder has access to the tailored mental health support they need.

The expectations and demands placed on our emergency services and NHS workers are higher than ever. Whether caring for a patient in an ICU, telling someone that their loved one has died or dealing with the aftermath of a car crash, our Emergency Responders witness more trauma on a daily basis than most of us do in a lifetime. It has been estimated that whilst most ordinary people will encounter serious trauma no more than three or four times in their life – for police officers it is 400-600 times.

Commenting on the issues that drove him to develop the Gratitude Games as the key fundraising platform for UKESG, Mike said “In my 18 years as a fire fighter, I have seen firsthand the devastating impact that working on the front line can have on your mental health. You can be dealing with multiple traumatic events on a daily basis and that can really take its toll.

“The pandemic has affected the mental health of many, but especially those of us in the emergency services - so there is an urgent need to make sure the specialist support is readily available. To help make this a reality, we are calling upon the British public and businesses to get behind the Gratitude Games - by donating to the fundraising appeal and sharing the message of the Games to friends and family.”

One of the first supporters of the Gratitude Games is Ricky Nuttall, a fire fighter who recently appeared on Channel 4's SAS: Who Dares Wins. Ricky experienced a steep decline in his mental health after the Grenfell fire.

He recalls: “I began to feel depressed and anxious and my relationships started to crumble. One evening, I sat on my living room floor and cried for four hours straight. I then realised that I couldn’t handle feeling this sad for the rest of my life. I didn’t see how I could recover. That was the first time I wanted to kill myself and it scared me”.

Chloe Kitto, Occupational Therapist and Wellbeing Lead at Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, who used the Duty to Care services during her time on the front line commented:

"I spent the first few months of the pandemic developing wellbeing training to critical care staff across London, helping psychologically prepare thousands of NHS staff for the uncertainties, risk and trauma of Covid-19 frontline work. Healthcare workers and emergency responders are used to being the care providers, not the care receivers. However, after a few months it was clear I was not practising what I was preaching. I was ignoring signs of stress and trauma within myself, I closed off from people close to me, became obsessive about the news, eventually leaning on alcohol to cope.

“I didn’t feel ready to seek psychological support at that stage, and instead came across the Duty to Care charity. Almost immediately I was offered access to coaching sessions, yoga practice, breathing sessions, nutritional support, and a variety of other holistic wellbeing interventions.”

The Gratitude Games will raise public awareness of the mental health challenges faced by so many of our Emergency Responders, whilst enabling people to show their appreciation for the essential work they do.

To donate to the fundraising appeal, please visit: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/gratitudegames

To find out more and register your interest visit: www.gratitudegames.uk

 


References

1. Mind data: April 2016
2. Of Emergency Responders
3. Mind: Blue Light "Behind the Mask" Report, published May 2021