Blue Light Time to Change 180Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has become the latest emergency service to sign the Blue Light Time to Change pledge to tackle stigma around mental health.

Run by mental health charity Mind, the Blue Light programme was launched following research that showed emergency services staff and volunteers in England are more likely to experience mental ill health but less likely to seek support than the general population.

To mark last week's Time to Talk Day (4 February), staff at TWFRS will be led by Chief Fire Officer Tom Capeling at an event to share their understanding of mental health and the action they can take to help keep themselves and colleagues well for work. They were joined by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority (CDDFRA) in signing on Time to Talk Day - see a full list of organisations who have signed the pledge here.

Tyne and Wear join the Fire Fighters Charity in signing the Blue Light Time To Change pledge as they joined a growing number of emergency service employers, associations and support organisations showing their commitment to ending mental health stigma and discrimination in the workplace.

Find out more: Fire Fighters Charity pledge to tackle mental health stigma in Service

CFO Capeling said: “I’m really proud that our Service has embraced this opportunity to play its part in ending the stigma that wrongly surrounds mental health in our society. Signing the Blue Light pledge means we are committed to a set of actions that will support our staff to talk more openly about their well-being, and to help each other to improve mental health in our workplace.

"Our aim is that none of our staff or volunteers will feel unsupported if they experience mental ill health. We’ll achieve this by continuing to give mental well-being a high profile in our workplace and by encouraging open conversations about mental health at work. The support for this initiative from staff has been superb. We already have a group of volunteer Blue Light champions who’ve been trained to be a first point of contact for their colleagues and I hope this network will grow as we progress with our pledge commitments."

An online survey of more than 3,500 emergency services staff and volunteers by mental health charity Mind last year found that 87% of emergency services staff and volunteers have experienced stress, low mood and poor mental health at some point while working for the emergency services.

Watch Manager Paul Foster, a TWFRS Blue Light champion, added: “The Blue Light programme offers us an opportunity to make a difference to how we think and talk about mental health right across the Service.

“We already have a positive attitude to mental health as an organisation but we recognise we can learn and do much more as individual members of staff to be open and supportive on mental health issues.

“Training volunteers in awareness of mental health is one of the steps we’ve taken to implement the Blue Light Programme. It has helped managers to be supportive of colleagues experiencing mental health problems and raised awareness levels across the Service.”

TWFRS is one of two emergency services in the North East to have signed the pledge, the other being the North East Ambulance Service.

To find out more about links between fire and health subscribe to FIRE Magazine for February's exclusive interview with CFOA's Paul Hancock and NHS England's Jaquie White