THE CONTEXT is critical to The Yorkshire Post’s revelation that the equivalent of one in 10 staff at Yorkshire Ambulance Service have taken time off in the past year for stress, anxiety, depression and other disorders linked to their challenging work.
The 19 per cent rise on the previous year can be attributed, certainly in part, to increased awareness about mental health – and a now widely-held acceptance that it should be taken just as seriously as physical illnesses and injuries. In this respect, societal attitudes are now far more enlightened.
Yet, given that paramedics and ambulance crews are, on the whole, resilient individuals because they have to deal with the after-effects of catastrophic injuries that people have suffered in road accidents, fires and other tragedies, it suggests that their workloand is taking its toll.
Why is this? Managers at YAS clearly need to ascertain any underlying causes for this repeated absenteeism – those signed off sick with mental health conditions are invariably off work for 46 days. Can it be attributed to a lack of day-to-day support – who is caring for the carers – or is it a legacy of the organisation’s staffing issues as it attempts to provide 999 and non-emergency cover in the largest county in the country?
To be prepared to explore the reasons should not be viewed as a sign of weakness. Quite the opposite. Like people coming to terms with mental health in the first place, it’s what any responsible employer should be doing if they want the best for their staff – and wellbeing – and YAS also needs to accept this.
And there’s a related point. Like other emergency workers, it’s a sad indictment on contemporary society that ambulance crews can face humiliating and degrading abuse from a moronic minority. Hopefully some respite will come in the form of the landmark Protect The Protectors Bill, inspired by Halifax MP Holly Lynch, which is due to receive royal assent after Parliament’s summer recess. When it does, it is incumbent upon the police, and criminal justice system, to enforce this legislation properly so emergency workers know they have the full backing of the law when they’re on the line of duty. They deserve nothing less.