Coronavirus pandemic takes toll on emergency service workers' mental health with ambulance staff worst affected

72% of ambulance staff reported having poor mental health Credit: PA

The mental health of emergency service workers in Wales has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey has revealed.

The online survey from mental health charity Mind Cymru found those working across police, fire and ambulances services reported having poor mental health.

20% of those asked said their mental health was ''poor or very poor.''

Ambulance staff reported having poorer mental health Credit: PA

Ambulance staff are worst effected with only a third reporting that their mental health was ''good or very good.''

Staff in the ambulance service were also more likely to say their mental health had worsened, with over 70% reporting poorer mental health.

Liz Wedley, Area Operations Manager at the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, said:

"The pandemic has been really difficult for us. We've gone from what was already a busy, highly pressured service to having to deal with a pandemic with the same number of people.

''It's been a real stretch. The military and St John assisted at the peak which was a great help and we cannot thank them enough.

"On the one hand, our response to the pandemic created a really strong team environment, where everyone stepped up and pulled together. In the early days, it almost strengthened us. People have become more open about talking about the difficulties they are having with their mental health too, which is a real positive.

"However, as time has gone on, I see more and more people almost running on autopilot, just getting through the working day. They are living on their nerves. Even in a debrief after a traumatic incident, you have to do it in a Covid-19 safe way - you can't give people a hug if they're struggling. You never really relax.

"At some point I'm very concerned that all the feelings people are putting to one side are going to come out. How do we, as a service and as a society, support them? The delayed impact is a real worry for me."

The report responded to concerns about stop and search. Credit: PA

Responding to the survey findings, Sue O'Leary, Interim Director of Mind Cymru, said:

"We know that even before the coronavirus outbreak, there were high rates of poor mental health across the emergency services. This latest survey shows that the mental health of our emergency responders has got even worse, with ambulance staff and volunteers hardest hit.

''Blue light staff have told us that working within the emergency services - especially the ambulance service - is a hugely rewarding but challenging job. The people who responded to our survey have made it clear that the pandemic has made their jobs even more demanding. They are making more difficult and potentially life-and-death decisions on a daily basis, as well as dealing with death and bereavement, in addition to concerns for their own health and wellbeing and that of their loved ones.

"It's really important that our hardworking emergency responders are able to access support for their wellbeing if and when they need it. Thanks to funding from The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's COVID-19 Response Fund, we will be initially looking to make new resources available to support those within blue light services in Wales with a view to extending training and support opportunities."

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