Funding boost to help emergency workers with mental health issues

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Media captionHuge rise in paramedics off sick with stress

The Scottish government has committed £138,000 of funding to extend a programme to help emergency service workers cope with mental health issues.

The number of paramedics signed off work with depression or stress increased by more than 40% last year.

Funding for the Lifelines Scotland initiative will cover Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Ambulance Service.

Front-line workers will get access to tailored mental health resources.

This will include online information and resources for responders, their friends and family, as well as training courses and resources to help organisations embed wellbeing in the workplace.

"Our emergency services work hard to keep people across Scotland safe every day," said health secretary Jeane Freeman during a visit to Springburn Ambulance Station in Glasgow.

"And like all our NHS staff, their welfare is crucially important.

"They often face challenging and dangerous situations, which can have an impact on mental wellbeing.

"Extending the Lifelines Scotland programme will support the resilience and welfare of front-line responder staff in blue-light services across the country, to ensure they feel supported, informed and valued."

'Physically and emotionally demanding'

Figures obtained by BBC Scotland's The Nine showed that 9% of all Scottish paramedics took sick leave due to stress-related illness in 2018, with an average of almost eight weeks off.

Technicians, schedulers and other staff in the ambulance service have all seen a rise in levels of sickness related to stress and anxiety.

Linda Douglas, director of human resources at the Scottish Ambulance Service, welcomed the funding boost.

She said: "Tens of thousands of people work for Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Ambulance Service, providing vital services to our communities, saving lives and making a real difference every day.

"However, their jobs can be physically, emotionally and psychologically demanding. Each of the emergency services take the mental health and wellbeing of their staff extremely seriously, and offer staff access to a range of support services and information."