The programme, launched as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, aims to monitor the mental health and wellbeing of members of the emergency services in Hampshire
The Hampshire Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (HIOWAA) are the first Air Ambulance Charity in the UK to launch such an initiative. The initiative includes a comprehensive online Wellbeing Programme that takes a proactive approach to not only monitoring, but enhancing the mental health and wellbeing of their Critical Care Teams.
A new wellbeing website is at the heart of the programme. Designed to give the Critical Care Teams, including paramedics, doctors, pilots and dispatch assistants, the tools to monitor their own mental health and check in with colleagues. Users will complete an anonymous survey each month. The website offers tailored tips and wellbeing advice based on their results, as well as signposting further support from mental health professionals.
As well as the website, regular events and activities will be held. Designed to encourage healing, raise awareness and also provide time for group team building, these activities will be an integral part of the programme.
“If you’re going to go to a sick patient at the side of the road, they’re having the worst day of their lives,” said one doctor, speaking to Chloe Oliver for ITV News. “We need to be fighting at 110% for them and in order to do that, we need to train hard but we also need to be in the right place mentally.”
The 33 HIOWAA staff members are usually the first to respond to major incidents across the South. So far this year the Critical Care Teams have flown more than 100 missions and carried out nearly 200 CCT vehicle missions.
Alex Lochrane, HIOWAA Chief Executive Officer said, “National reporting has highlighted that everyone working in the emergency services can be affected by post-traumatic stress at any point in their career, and our Critical Care Teams at HIOWAA are no exception.
“They put themselves out there every day and face situations that are unimaginable to us. I am really proud that we can now offer them a platform to seek support and advice, should they need it and I hope others will follow our example.”
At the end of last year, the Duke of Cambridge spoke about his experiences when working as a pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance. “I worked several times on very traumatic jobs involving children,” he said. “After I had my own children, I think the relation between the job and the personal life was what really took me over the edge, and I started feeling things that I have never felt before.”
Prince William revealed how important talking was for him in helping him deal with these experiences, however one particular incident really took its toll.
“I was lucky enough that I identified that something was going on,” he said. “I spoke to a lot of people about it, and knowing also that my colleagues I work with who have been in the medical profession for 30-odd years in some cases, they also were feeling from this particular job very troubled.
“It allowed the crew at the time to go through a bit of a debrief process. So we regularly used to talk about it and try and understand it better. I think that helped me come to terms with the enormous sadness of what I’d witnessed.”
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week and the launch of the programme, HIOWAA have arranged a variety of activities throughout the week for the Critical Care Team, including personal training sessions and yoga classes.
“The wellbeing of our Critical Care Teams is of paramount importance, in order that they have the mental and physical resilience to face the challenges they do,” said Lochrane. “We want to ensure they are fit and well so they can continue to provide the best possible life-saving treatment for the people of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”
The charity hope to eventually roll out the scheme across the country, helping to monitor and support workers’ mental health and wellbeing, and raise awareness of the support available, and the importance of talking to each other.
Learn more about the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (HIOWAA).
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Image credit: Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (@HIOWAA)