Firefighters in Norfolk are taking four times more sick days for mental health reasons compared to three years ago
- Credit: Victoria Pertusa
The number of sick days firefighters are having to take due to their mental health has more than quadrupled in the space of three years.
Full time firefighters at Norfolk Fire and Rescue took 847.5 sick days due to their mental health in 2018/19 - up from 194 in 2016/17.
The number had also increased for on-call firefighters, to 837 days in 2018/19 from 684 days in 2016/17.
A report presented to MPs last year revealed 85pc of people working in fire and rescue services experienced stress and poor mental health at work.
And they were twice as likely as the wider workforce to identify problems at work as the main cause of their mental health problems.
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Alan Jaye, Fire Brigades Union Norfolk chairman, said: "The impact of firefighting on mental wellbeing is a serious issue that is not understood well enough and still unfortunately carries a stigma. This means that many cases goes unreported.
"Of course, many firefighters encounter people in distress and even death far more frequently than in many other professions. Our members have repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of this and other working pressures on their mental wellbeing. Increased pressures on firefighters after years of cuts to the service may also play a role.
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"The FBU is taking this very seriously and is currently undertaking research at a national level to help us to see the real extent of the problem and then to better understand it. Locally, our officials have been working with Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service on mental health and wellbeing and have signed Mind's blue light pledge.
"Our officials receive basic guidance on awareness and how to help their colleagues dealing mental health issues. They are not trained counsellors but may be able to point them in the direction of where they can find help as they may be the first point of call for firefighters who are affected."
Stuart Ruff, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service's chief fire officer, added: "We take the health and welfare of our employees seriously. We believe that talking about mental health in the workplace means people will feel more able to accept that they need help, which may result in people taking more time off.
"The rise in reported cases reflects this open approach and the proactive work we've done, backed up by a 24/7 free and confidential support line, access to a wide range of support and our commitment to reducing the stigma around mental health."