I’ve seen something traumatic in my fire service role

Sadly, in the fire service, you’re much more likely to experience something traumatic in your role than the general population. While you might feel like you’re able to cope in the moment, these situations can have a long-lasting effect on your mental wellbeing. Healthy processing of such incidents is essential for fire service staff and volunteers to reset your stress response, to file events as past, and to move on to the next job.

“You can hear some very traumatic things – incidents can linger with you, or in some cases stay in your memory for the rest of your life… Although I may not feel affected right now, down the line my ‘emotional bucket’ might creep up to being full.”

Rebecca Dingvean Assistant Operations Manager, London Fire Brigade

There are things you can do in the first 24 hours, the next 48, and beyond, to help you recognise the impact of what happened to you and try to ensure the experience does not cause you long-term trauma.

You might also find it useful to talk to someone who wasn’t involved in the situation. They might be able to talk you through what happened, and help you understand it (and your feelings about it) better. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it.

You’ll find some starting points below.

The Fire Fighters Charity

The Fire Fighters Charity aims to support the mental, physical and social needs of all serving and retired UK fire fighters. Register your details online and they’ll get back to you, or call them on 0800 3898820 to discuss how they could help you.

  • 3 mins
  • UK-wide

Coping with what you’ve experienced during coronavirus: fire and rescue

This guide from Mind is designed help you make sense of the things you’ve seen and experienced as an emergency responder in the fire and rescue service during coronavirus.

It explores some the feelings you may be going through, experiences other responders have shared, tools and strategies to cope with difficult feelings and experiences, and how to deal with any long-lasting impacts to your working and personal life.

It’s available in both English and Welsh.

  • 20 min read
  • UK-wide

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem you may develop after traumatic events. You’re not alone. These pages explain causes, symptoms and self-care tips.

  • 10 min read
  • UK-wide

Understanding my response to trauma and stress: fire

Your role might well involve regular and frequent exposure to the kinds of events and situations that most people never encounter.

This page explains what happens to us – biologically, psychologically and socially – when we’re exposed to potentially traumatic events. It includes a video example from a first responder who attended a fatal avalanche.

It was produced for volunteer responders in Scotland, but the information is applicable to any emergency personnel.

  • 10 min read
  • Scotland

How to manage stress and anxiety: Fire and rescue

85% of fire and rescue staff and volunteers have experienced stress and poor mental health. This booklet has practical tips and suggestions to help.

  • 15 min read
  • UK-wide

Everyone I know has experienced some sort of impact to their mental health

I missed the closeness of friends and family, of hugs and gentle touch on the forearm. Being in a work environment where 24 hours news is vital is understandable, but when all you seen is news around death and the spread of the virus you feel like you cannot escape it.

  • 4 min read
  • UK-wide

Looking for more information, ideas and suggestions?