Firefighters use tai chi to improve mental health

The Humber NHS Foundation Trust has blazed a trail by giving mindfulness and tai chi classes to firefighters.

The Trust-run Humber Recovery College has been teaching staff from Humberside Fire and Rescue Service to improve their mental health.

The College takes an educational approach to mental health and wellbeing, offering courses co-designed and delivered by the tutors, students and volunteers to help support people become experts in their own care.

Operational since January 2016, the College’s ethos is founded on the key concepts of Hope, Control and Opportunity. Its aim is to build on its students’ strengths to help them develop the skills and confidence they need to manage their own recovery and live a meaningful life.

College tutor Mike Scott, who has been practising tai chi for more than 12 years, delivered the tai chi classes to the firefighters.

Tai chi uses a series of interconnected movements directly descended from ancient Chinese martial arts to focus on posture, breathing and deep relaxation.

Its soft and gentle movements mean it can be practised by people of all ages and abilities, and regular practice can bring about physical and mental health benefits.

All the sessions were met with enthusiasm by the Fire Service staff.

One said: “It was the best part of my day – Mike Scott knows magic!” - while another admitted he had not been looking forward to the session but ended up enjoying it.

A Hessle HQ staff member intends to attend a tai chi class after Mr Scott pointed out that its movements can help ease back problems.

He said men’s mental health was a particularly important topic as the UK has the highest male suicide rate since 2011.