Author Bio ▼

Dr Karen McDonnell is head of RoSPA Scotland & Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser. She is also the immediate past president of IOSH.
July 26, 2018

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Mental Health

‘Physical and mental health should be treated as one’

How resilient do we really expect our fire and emergency services to be, asks Dr Karen McDonnell, Occupational Health & Safety Policy Adviser at RoSPA.

“I do love a dictionary definition and on the face of it resilience being ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties’ or ‘toughness’ reads really well. However perhaps the more thought provoking definition is ‘the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape’ or it’s ‘elasticity’.

“These words don’t resonate as well when you consider the challenges faced by London Fire Brigade staff providing evidence at the Grenfell inquiry, and the multidisciplinary team involved the Tham Luang cave rescue those who faced ‘impossible decisions’ within ‘a highly stressful situation without the luxury of deliberating over the choices’.

“Do our fire and emergency service personnel really ‘spring back into shape’?

“The equation for determining elasticity looks like this:

Eauation for determining elasticity

“Overstretched fire and emergency personnel look and feel weary, vulnerable and fragile.

“According to Mind the mental health charity ‘people have a tendency to separate physical and mental health … and we need to treat them as one and the same. The physical and mental challenges associated with ‘Blue Light’ work requires consideration of the whole person across their life course. Which mirrors RoSPA’s approach to working with and supporting the working age population.

The RoSPA position on Mental Health at Work  stresses the importance of embedding coverage of the HSE Stress Management standards in the training and continuing professional development of all managers, workers’ representatives and health and safety health professionals.

“Equipping people to feel confident in opening up about mental health and providing pathways that keep them at work, currently 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs every year. And with an ageing population sustainable working lives have to become a priority for us all.

“People do indeed need to thrive to survive, good work helps us prosper, flourish and feel fulfilled. We need to create spaces and opportunities for people to have their voice heard. As the silence created by lives lost to mental illness is unbearable.”

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