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County's firefighters were on the scene of a record number of suicide incidents in 2018




Firefighters in Cambridgeshire responded to a record number of suicide call-outs last year, figures reveal.

Cambridgeshire firefighters were on the scene of a record number of suicide incidents last year.
Cambridgeshire firefighters were on the scene of a record number of suicide incidents last year.

The Fire Brigades Union said its members have repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of these situations on the mental health of attending officers.

The Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service was called out to 30 suicides and attempted suicides in 2018, Home Office data shows.

Call-outs for these emergencies are at the highest level since official records began in 2011, and were at their lowest in 2012, when just six incidents were recorded.

Across England, fire and rescue services responded to a record 1,850 suicide call-outs in 2018.

Sean Starbuck, FBU national officer, said firefighters are increasingly called out to suicides and other medical emergencies, which can be traumatic for first responders.

He said: "The impact of firefighting on mental health is a serious issue that is not well enough understood. Many firefighters encounter death far more frequently than in many other professions, and our members have repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of this on their mental health.

"The FBU is taking this very seriously, and we are currently undertaking research to better understand the problem."

A recent survey by mental health charity Mind found that less than half of emergency services staff reported having good or very good mental health.

Alison Cobb, specialist policy advisor at Mind, said: "Emergency services are often first on the scene when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, and have to deal with challenging situations quickly and calmly.

"There's a misconception that those working for blue light services are immune to developing mental health problems, but the nature of the job, with its unique pressures and frequent exposure to difficult incidents, puts 999 workers at greater risk.

"It's vital that the wellbeing of team 999 is prioritised, to make sure they can come to work at their best and continue to carry out the potentially traumatic, life-saving roles we often take for granted."

Suicide prevention charity the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, a 24-hour freephone line, or by emailing jo@samaritans.org.



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