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Firefighters called out to 'record number' of suicides in Cornwall

Firefighters called out to 'record number' of suicides in Cornwall

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 7:00am 1st June 2019.

It has been revealed that firefighters in Cornwall were called out to a record number of suicide incidents last year.

The Fire Brigades Union said its members have repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of these situations on the mental health of attending officers.

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service was called out to 21 suicides and attempted suicides in 2018, Home Office data shows.

Callouts for these emergencies are now three times higher than they were in 2011, when just seven incidents were recorded, and are at the highest level since official records began that year.

fire engine

Across England, fire and rescue services responded to a record 1,850 suicide callouts in 2018.

Sean Starbuck, FBU national officer, said firefighters are increasingly called out to suicides and other medical emergencies, which can be traumatic for first responders.

"The impact of firefighting on mental health is a serious issue that is not well enough understood.

"Many firefighters encounter death far more frequently than in many other professions, and our members have repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of this on their mental health.

"The FBU is taking this very seriously, and we are currently undertaking research to better understand the problem."

Sean Starbuck, FBU national officer

fire tape

A recent survey by mental health charity Mind found that less than half of emergency services staff reported having good or very good mental health.

"Emergency services are often first on the scene when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, and have to deal with challenging situations quickly and calmly.

"There's a misconception that those working for blue light services are immune to developing mental health problems, but the nature of the job, with its unique pressures and frequent exposure to difficult incidents, puts 999 workers at greater risk.

"It's vital that the wellbeing of team 999 is prioritised, to make sure they can come to work at their best and continue to carry out the potentially traumatic, life-saving roles we often take for granted."

Alison Cobb, specialist policy advisor at Mind

Suicide prevention charity the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, a 24-hour freephone line, or by emailing jo@samaritans.org.

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