criminal justice
health & social care
voluntary sector

Improving Mental Wellbeing Across Blue Light Services

criminal justice

health & social care

voluntary sector

08:45 - 16:00

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Prospero House- etc Venues, Central London

This Forum will provide participants with the opportunity to discuss the government’s funding for mental wellbeing initiatives within blue light services and how this will be implemented in practice. Attendees will discuss with policy leaders the next steps for strengthening public sector and community collaboration. In addition, best practice case studies will share guidance for developing innovative initiatives which have successfully been able to access funding and deliver public impact to create thriving communities.


This Forum is specifically designed for those working in blue light services, including police, ambulance and fire & rescue services. It is also aimed at the voluntary and private sector. Typical job titles will include:

  • Area Commanders
  • Blue Light Collaboration Managers
  • Blue Light Strategy Advisors
  • Mental Health Leads
  • Chief Fire Officers
  • Chief Inspectors
  • Chief Superintendents
  • Compliance Managers
  • Detective Inspectors
  • Detective Superintendents
  • District Commanders
  • Emergency Planning Managers
  • Fire Safety Managers
  • Heads of Collaboration
  • Heads of Resilience
  • Heads of Talent
  • Watch Managers
Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Holly Lynch MP, Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Sponsor, Protect the Protectors Bill
  • Dr Jill Tolfrey, CEO, The Fire Fighters Charity
  • John Sutherland, Former Borough Commander, Southwark, Metropolitan Police Service and Author, Blue: Keeping the Peace and Falling to Pieces
  • John Apter, Chair, Police Federation
View the agenda and additional speakers

According to Mind, 27% of people working in emergency services have considered taking their own life due to the stress that their work places upon them. Two-thirds of workers in blue lights professions have also considered leaving their role because of poor mental health. According to the same study by Mind, 41% had been prescribed medication to deal with these issues, demonstrating the extent of the issue across emergency services.

In recent times, the government has identified both the personal and economic cost of neglecting the well-being of emergency service personnel. This can be seen with a £15 million sum earmarked for mental health initiatives in policing, ambulance and fire services. Further to this, the Protect the Protectors Bill campaign saw the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act come into effect from September 2018. This was a landmark decision in protecting those in blue services across the UK and served to implement extensive legislation to protect emergency workers from the trauma of assaults directed towards them.

The mental health crisis across blue lights services will continue to cost lives, reduce the quality of emergency services and raise sickness absence time to the overall detriment of UK citizens and those who protect our safety. A collaborative network must be fostered across blue lights services to reduce the stigma around mental health, discuss strategies to deal with traumatic experiences and promote overall mental well-being in stressful environments. If this network can be established, where best-practice is shared and action is driven in a positive direction, then we can begin to overturn these negative trends in the mental health of emergency services workers.

Holly Lynch MP

Holly Lynch was elected as the Member of Parliament for her hometown of Halifax in 2015 and won re-election in 2017. Holly made her maiden speech in the House of Commons on 9 June 2015 and talked of her determination to protect services at Calderdale Royal Hospital. She has worked hard since then to achieve this goal and has consistently called for services to be protected at both Halifax and Huddersfield A&Es. In Parliament she has led a campaign to increase protections for emergency service workers; Protect the Protectors.

Laura Johnson

Since joining Mind in 2018, Laura has used her wealth of knowledge and expertise to lead on the delivery of Mind’s campaigns and programmes to ensure mentally healthy workplaces for all. This specially involves leading the strategic direction of the Time to Change Employer Programme and the Blue Light Programme –  a Government funded programme working with the emergency services. Laura is responsible for the strategic direction of Mind’s externally funded programmes, and works with a wide range of employers, HR audiences and Government supporting them on mental health in the workplace. She previously worked for ChildHope UK as Partnerships and Programmes Manager, where she was in charge of project management of child protection programs in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Sierra Leone.

John Sutherland

John Sutherland is a married father of three, who lives with his wife and children in South London. He joined the Metropolitan Police in September 1992, serving for more than 25 years until his retirement in February 2018. Having won the Baton of Honour as the outstanding recruit in his training school intake, he rose through the ranks to become a highly respected senior officer. During the course of his career, he worked in a wide variety of roles across the Capital. He is an experienced Hostage & Crisis Negotiator and a Premier League Football Match Commander. His last operational posting was as the Borough Commander for Southwark. 

John is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller, ‘Blue: A Memoir’ – which tells the remarkable stories of his policing life. His second book is due to be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in May 2020.

Dr Jill Tolfrey

Jill started work with The Fire Fighters Charity in 2010 as Director of Operations to lead the development of the Charity’s services. Her initial qualification is in physiotherapy and she have a broad range of experience in trauma management, intensive care, rehabilitation, acute and long-term cardiorespiratory care. She has developed and delivered graduate and post-graduate learning programmes, led social care provision for families and older people, has experience in NHS leadership and research environments. Her research areas are in long term condition management, rehabilitation and the experience of illness; her doctoral studies are in the development of autonomous practice and clinical decision making.

She was appointed Chief Executive of The Fire Fighters Charity in June 2014.

Kelly Patterson

Kelly has been with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service since 2006. Her priority is working with other departments to deliver innovative mental health and wellbeing initiatives designed to support operational and non-operational staff. 

Kelly is passionate about creating an environment that delivers a healthy and fit workforce and her drive and ambition is helping to fundamentally change the culture around mental health in the Fire Service by developing training packages, writing policies and delivering new initiatives that challenge stigma and support positive mental health and wellbeing.

In 2017, the work that Kelly led won the National Positive Practice in Mental Health Award for Staff Wellbeing and in 2019 was published as best practice in ‘A Happy, Healthy Workplace: Workforce Wellbeing, Recruitment and Retention in Mental Health Services’ (National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health).

Kelly is a member of the National Fire Chief’s Council Mental Health Group where she leads on Mental Health Training.

Kelly also volunteers in her spare time at a local counselling centre, working therapeutically with clients who are experiencing a range of life difficulties.

Mark Thomas

Mark has been with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service since 1992. He is currently responsible for the Prevention department including Home Safety, Safeguarding and Volunteers.

Mark is the MFRS Officer lead regarding mental health and emotional wellbeing. Introducing Critical Incident Stress Management to the Service in 2012, he remains a passionate coordinator of the process. He has developed and delivered innovative frameworks to promote positive mental health internally and with other Services regionally and nationally.

Mark is a member of the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) Home Safety Committee and the NFCC Mental Health Group where he leads on Suicide Prevention.  He is also an active member of the Cheshire and Merseyside No More Suicide Partnership Board.

In 2019, for his proactive work in the area of staff mental health and wellbeing within the emergency services, Mark was awarded the Liverpool Hope and Leaders Club Leadership Award.

John Apter

John Apter is Chairman of the Police Federation of England & Wales and formerly the Chairman of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Police Federation. He joined the police service in 1992. Prior to becoming Hampshire Police Federation Chairman, he held a variety of uniformed roles including response, neighbourhood, traffic, road death investigation and family liaison.

Garry Botterill

Garry is a Response Sergeant with Sussex Police and is currently seconded onto the Wellbeing Team who look after Surrey and Sussex Police, East Sussex and Surrey Fire and Rescue.  He is the co-developer of Backup Buddy, an application that was specifically designed to offer mental health support to those working in the emergency services.  He is also co-founder of Service Dogs UK, an assistance dog charity helping veterans of the Armed Forces and Emergency Services with PTSD.  He is a Winston Churchill Fellow, a Mental Health First Aider, Blue Light Champion and Armed Forces Champion.  Garry served in the Royal Navy prior to joining the Police and has been a police officer for 26 years, he is passionate about improving the health and wellbeing of colleagues and beating stigma around mental health in the Police and other emergency services.


Registration, Breakfast and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Dr Andrew Mayers, Principal Academic in Psychology, Bournemouth University and Governor, Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust (CONFIRMED)


Morning Keynote: Managing the Future of Mental Health in the Emergency Services

  • Reviewing the investigation process into workplace related mental health issues for blue light services
  • Evaluating the need to reduce the impact of absenteeism due to mental health complaints
  • Discussing the implications of the September 2018 Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, which outlines extended legislative protection for emergency workers 
  • Asking whether this bill is just the first step in ensuring that emergency service employees are protected mentally by law and what more needs to be done to successfully protect blue lights workers

Holly Lynch MP, Member for Halifax and Opposition Whip and Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Sponsor, Protect the Protectors Bill (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Sharing Learning and Key Recommendations from Mind’s Blue Light Programme

  • Outlining the key findings from Mind’s Blue Light Programme which was created and delivered in partnership with emergency services and local Minds
  • Challenging stigma and ensuring support is in place for 999 staff and volunteers’ mental health and wellbeing
  • Sharing our recommendations for emergency services and professional bodies to continue supporting the mental health of blue light staff

Laura Johnson, Head of Workplace Wellbeing Programmes (Delivery), Mind (CONFIRMED)


First-Hand Insight: Keeping the Peace and Falling to Pieces

  • Hear the story of John Sutherland, former Borough Commander for Southwark, who, after 20 years in the Met, fell foul of a crippling breakdown of depression and anxiety
  • John will relay his first account of depression after a glittering career in the emergency services, how he recovered and what he feels is needed in the future, to stop his experience happening to others

John Sutherland, Former Borough Commander, Southwark, Metropolitan Police Service and Author, Blue: Keeping the Peace and Falling to Pieces (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Morning Break, Refreshments and Networking


Keynote: Driving Forward Mental Health Support Across Fire and Rescue Services

  • Supporting fire and rescue worker to overcome the social and mental troubles that accrue from working within fire services
  • Giving a closer look at mental health and well-being policy and whether it fulfils the complex situations experienced by emergency service personnel in fire and rescue services
  • Providing mental health support services for current and former fire fighters tailored to each individual, understanding that every worker is different

Dr Jill Tolfrey, CEO, The Fire Fighters Charity (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Creating Safer, Stronger Communities Through a Mentally Resilient Fire Service Team

  • Discussing the Mission of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MF&RS) to achieve ‘Safer Stronger Communities – Safe Effective Firefighters’ and how they look to achieve their mission through investment in people and developing mental health initiatives which are now embedded as ‘normal’ business
  • Looking at how MF&RS recognised the need to create a mentally resilient workforce which in turn will lead to a happier, healthier and more productive workforce
  • Exploring the challenges of implementing this scheme across approximately 1,000 staff employed by MF&RS at 24 Community Fire stations, a Water Rescue station, the Training and Development Academy, their Headquarters and operational workshops
  • Reviewing how a mental health and well-being lead works within the Occupational Health Team and is complemented by input from all of MF&RS representative bodies, who embrace these initiatives and work very effectively towards tackling the stigma attached to mental ill health
  • Achieving aims by providing education, training and support to each member of the service and working in partnership with many stakeholders both internally and externally to benchmark their progress 

Kelly Patterson, Senior Occupational Health Officer and Psychological Therapist and Mark Thomas, Group Manager – Prevention, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Afternoon Keynote: The Case for Being Proactive Towards Mental Health and Wellbeing

  • Providing extensive guidance to ensure police forces have the best preventative advice to ensure they know what to do before serious well-being issues arise
  • Building the next steps to tackle staff sickness and lack of retention due to issues with mental health in the police
  • Giving an overview of the lessons learnt and overcoming challenges with serious reform in the approach to mental well-being across policing
  • Outlining what it means and would require, financially, for blue light leaders to drive forward to necessary change in police well-being

John Apter, Chair, Police Federation (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Beating Stigma and Providing Well-being Support Through a Leading Application

  • Exploring how technology is playing a role in informing frontline workers on the importance of well-being and remaining mentally healthy
  • Releasing an app for officers and staff in the Police Service, which provides practical advice on anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD and more
  • Helping staff to spot the warning signs for mental health issues and directing them, via the app, to pathways (such as local community services) which can provide extensive help
  • Working with police forces across the country to guide them in implementing this application so that it is successfully integrated into the well-being support offered to officers and staff

Garry Botterill, Co-Founder, Backup Buddy and Sergeant, Sussex Police (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Afternoon Break: Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: PTSD - Having an Open Attitude Towards One of the Most Dangerous Concepts Facing Emergency Services Personnel

  • Discussing the concerns associated with PTSD and how damaging it can be for a person’s mental health, including the pathway to suicide
  • Summarising the support currently available for those experiencing PTSD in blue light services, including what can be improved
  • Outlining peer-support strategies for individuals, groups and large organisations to tackle PTSD by understanding the common issues shared between personnel and the wider implications this has for families and friends

Gary Hayes, Founder, PTSD999 (CONFIRMED)

Simon Durance, Founder, PTSD999 (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Supporting Resilience in the Face of Traumatic Experiences in Policing

  • Exploring the concept of trauma and the effect it has on those who respond to it, sometimes on a daily basis
  • Sharing the basic concepts of neuroscience and how this can be applied to those working in the policing, especially in response to stressful situations
  • Outlining well-researched strategies for police forces to maintain resilience and positive mental health when consistently dealing with trauma and traumatic incidents

Dr Jess Miller, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Cambridge University and Director of Research, Police Care UK (CONFIRMED)


Joint Questions and Answers Session


Chair's Summary and Close

*Programme is subject to change

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