More than three quarters of ambulance staff and around two thirds of police and firefighters say their mental health has worsened during the pandemic, a survey has found.
The mental health charity Mind said data from its survey of 3,812 emergency staff and volunteers had “laid bare” the impact of Covid-19 on those working in the sector.
It found that one in four 999 staff and volunteers rated their current mental health as poor or very poor, with ambulance service workers appearing to be the worse affected.
Only 26% of ambulance staff said their mental health was good or very good, while 32% said it was poor – compared with 23% of those in the police and 20% of fire service respondents.
Overall, 77% of ambulance staff said their mental health had worsened during the pandemic, with 66% of police and 65% of firefighters saying the same.
Emma Mamo, the head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, said: “We know that even before the coronavirus outbreak, there were high rates of poor mental health across the emergency services.
“It’s clear from this latest survey data that the mental health of our emergency responder community has got even worse, with ambulance staff and volunteers hardest hit.”
She said Covid-19 had made their roles “more demanding”, with staff making potentially life-and-death decisions on a “daily basis”, along with additional concerns for their own health.
The survey comes as Mind announces the relaunch of its Blue Light Programme, which provides support, training and resources to all 999 staff and volunteers.
Of those across the UK who took part in the online survey between December 1 2020 and January 31 2021, 2,323 were from the police service, 992 from the ambulance service and 497 were from the fire service, Mind said.
East of England Ambulance Service emergency dispatcher Ben Hawkins, 22, of Peterborough, said the past year had been particularly “tough”.
He said: “Christmas Day was especially bad, it was absolutely heart-breaking.
“For a good few months, it felt like it was just suicide and Covid deaths, all the time.
“Ambulance staff have been fighting a mental health pandemic as well as dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. As well as dealing with traumatic events, we often get abuse on the phone, even death threats.”
Anna Parry, deputy managing director at the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE), said: “Healthy ambulance staff are integral to the services we provide to patients, which is why the data emanating from the Mind survey is particularly worrying.
“However, with demand for ambulance services at its highest ever level, alongside the additional unique demands of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is perhaps unsurprising that our frontline staff are experiencing pressures that are impacting upon their mental health and this is something the sector is working hard to mitigate.”