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Our mental wellbeing is vital during these challenging times

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It’s Mental Health Week this and it falls right in the middle of the most significant global event in a generation. Here are the thoughts of Station Commander Jon Laight, who is the Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service lead on mental health issues.

The mental wellbeing of ourselves, friends, families and colleagues couldn’t be more important during these most challenging of times. 

Put the CV19 effects into the same arena as dealing with normal family issues, health, working from home, the economy, changes in shift systems and you quickly get to a place where these will build stress and anxiety and cause further issues. HWFRS senior managers, leaders and welfare support teams are more than aware of this (they are feeling the same stress as the rest of us) and have plans in place to support staff and their families when needed. 

Communication is so important to us as humans and to have this limited can be a really difficult thing to deal with and if we are full of stress ourselves, any contact we do have with people may be affected by these feelings. There has been a lot in the media about how to deal with this current situation and most of it has been really good. These have included:

  • Regular contact with friends and family via phone calls and video calls.
  • Eating well and taking the opportunity to cook with family members or try new things.
  • Exercise, whether it be walking or jogging outside or getting totally worn out exercising along with Joe Wicks every day.
  • Learning new skills or doing some brain training to keep the grey matter as healthy as the body.
  • Taking the time out where needed, through mindfulness and meditation.

There has also been many examples of acts of kindness highlighted on TV and on social media. HWFRS' involvement in Claps For Carers and the NHS has been amazing as well as the many tributes done by operational teams to show we are thinking of others and doing the best to support them throughout. 

Helping those who need it is at the very core of what we do as a Service and it does the very basic of things…makes other people feel good and makes us feel good too, so why not do it as much as you can! With the new advice from government and some positive things happening, hopefully it will improve our own positive thoughts and feelings which will in turn improve our own mental health and wellbeing and make our interactions with others even better. 

Although this journey to normality is far from over, having a healthy mind and body will make sure the experience and learning we take from it all is beneficial to each and every one of us as new world emerges. My experience of it all as a leader within a very busy department has been tough at times, especially not being able to be with my brilliant hard working team. 

I have used my breaks to stretch my legs, drink plenty of water and tried to keep a daily session of mindfulness as part of the routine as well as spending time with the family during days off. Don’t forget to talk about other things as well as CV19 can quickly become overwhelming…both in work and out of work. 

Mindfulness helps with calming the mind and not trying to forget what is happening but filter your thoughts and recognise the feelings they produce without the negative focus that can quickly overwhelm you. Give it a go if you haven’t already, I guarantee it will make you feel better and improve the way you think. 

Take the time to have a look at what is happening during Mental Health Week and get involved where you can it may not just help you but colleagues, friends and family as well.

Firefighter Lauren Barnett from Kington Fire Station has been explaining how kindness has benefited her, and her colleagues, during the pandemic.

Her story can be found here.