National Stress Awareness Day

Blog post posted on 02/11/16 |

Today is National Stress Awareness Day and MIND, a mental health charity, is focussing on its Blue Light Programme. This highlights the support needed for emergency services in regard to mental health issues. Their independent research stated “9 out of 10 of the emergency service staff and volunteers who completed their survey had experienced stress, low mood or poor mental health at some point whilst working for the emergency services.” Check out more about the Blue Light Services and Mental Health, plus the statistics here.

IAM RoadSmart has emergency services personnel amongst its members, who may well have experienced stress themselves. Others, who are reading this, may just be interested in an insight into the emergency services.

I spoke to Gloucestershire Police Collision Investigator Sgt. Darren Rosewell at the Under 17 Car Club’s Pathfinder about the stresses which accompany his job, particularly in driving to or from an emergency:

Whenever a blue light service vehicle goes to an emergency they are under a time constraint. In Gloucestershire where Sgt. Rosewell lives and works, it is roughly 10 minutes, no matter what the distance, although allowances are made and each is on an individual basis. In general if these times aren’t met, the organisation can be seen as failing. When driving to the incident the emergency services will already know or will be receiving information of what they’re going to, so are often thinking about how they are going to deal with the situation. Cases like violent disorder or a domestic often raise the question, has anyone else been sent to the scene? All officers in his workforce are single crewed and therefore may be the only one at the scene, so that can raise concerns as well.

On the other hand PC Neil Bennett, another officer I spoke to from West Mercia Police, commented that every police officer handles the situation differently. He doesn’t think about the situation he is going to, but instead focusses on getting there and handles it when he arrives. Everyone handles potentially stressful situations in their own way, and of course the impact a situation may have, is again very individual.

Then there’s the emergency driving itself. Nowadays those who work in the emergency services are not exempt from court actions such as dangerous driving or driving without due care and attention, meaning every action they take has to be processed and deemed safe enough, backed by evidence if they were sent to court.

Darren comments that one of the most frustrating aspects of driving to an emergency or scene of an incident, is people not seeing them or not knowing how to react and panicking. Police officers and other emergency service vehicles will not put undue pressure on the public and therefore if they arrive in traffic or in an area where they cannot easily pass through, they will turn everything off and wait. The role of a police officer and other emergency services is to protect members of the public and their property – this is their priority. The pressure of the blue light run is enormous – they have to use their observation skills to the extreme and predict the road conditions and other road users which is very tiring.

Shift work also has a significant impact on those who work in the emergency services, alongside the tiredness which comes with it. Working in shifts means going against the body’s natural biological clock and circadian rhythm, this impact is increased by the dynamic nature of the role which can result in interrupted and missed refreshment breaks during the shift.

I have huge respect for the passion and determination of these drivers and I’m sure most of us are reassured by their continued presence. There are few people who don’t want to do the right thing when an emergency vehicle approaches, but sometimes doing what we think is best can actually make the situation worse. This video from GEM covers some top tips for helping them on their way.

Eloise Peabody-Rolf – IAM RoadSmart’s young driver ambassador