Mental Health and Wellbeing Support in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
5. Creation of a Destigmatised, Positive and Inclusive Mental Health and Wellbeing Culture Within the SFRS
89. The SFRS acknowledges within its Mental Health Strategy that ‘there has been a perceived degree of stigma attached to mental ill health’. Stigma is rooted in a lack of understanding; the Service has committed to tackle this through main streaming and awareness raising. During interviews we asked whether the SFRS has been successful in destigmatising mental health within the Service. Replies to this were in the main positive, with interviewees saying that they could acknowledge varying degrees of perceived progress regarding destigmatisation. There was an acknowledgment that this process was ongoing and that work remained to be done. In this regard the Service is making progress against its stated aim.
90. This destigmatisation appears in part to be because of the resources and effort that the SFRS has brought to bear over the years of the Mental Health Strategy being live. There was also a general acknowledgement that there is a societal shift in awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues and an acceptance that these need to be tackled to prevent harm to people and colleagues. This societal and Service shift has resulted in a workforce who are generally, although not universally, open to talking with friends, work colleagues and health care professionals about mental health and wellbeing.
Good Practice 13: The application of resources to SFRS processes and initiatives has resulted in a reduction in perceived mental health stigma within staff groups across the Service.
91. There were important factors that became obvious as potential drivers for this openness such as working on a Watch that offers peer support, receiving social support from friends and family and the demographics of the interviewees that we met with. The age and gender of interviewees appeared to be particularly important in this regard. The role of the WC as a mental health advocate was again noticeably important in how they manage the Watch and make it a fertile place for positive discussions and conversations. We have discussed these issues further within this report.
92. Another key question that was asked during interviews was concerning the language that is used in mental health and wellbeing discourse and whether it is conflated with mental illness. Mental health refers to a person’s state of emotional and psychological wellbeing, and it can be both positive and negative. Mental illness refers to a wide range of medically diagnosed conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling and behaviour. We asked interviewees to consider whether, in their opinion, mental health and wellbeing and mental illness are considered to be the same thing or if a degree of separation in the language surrounding them was required to assist with removing stigma. In general, they agreed that the challenges of mental health were different from those of mental illness, and that their conflation can add an extra layer of complexity which attracts stigma and makes it more difficult for them to be as open as they perhaps could be when discussing the topic.