The expectations and demands placed on our emergency services and NHS workers are higher than ever.
Whether caring for a patient in an ICU, telling someone that their loved one has died or dealing with the aftermath of a car crash, our Emergency Responders witness more trauma on a daily basis than most of us do in a lifetime.
It has been estimated that whilst most ordinary people will encounter serious trauma no more than three or four times in their life – for police officers it is 400-600 times.
Today, the Gratitude Games, a new sporting event to support the mental health of emergency service and NHS workers, is calling on the British public and businesses to donate to their fundraising appeal.
The Gratitude Games aims to generate £10 million in funding to support Emergency Responders’ mental health over the next five years.
The cities of Manchester and Salford will hold the inaugural games next year for over 20,000 Emergency Responders and their families, at leading venues, including the Etihad campus.
From the whole of the NHS and the Fire and Rescue Service, to RNLI and Cave Rescue, workers from 17 different Emergency Services will be able to take part.
The event will be open to all sporting abilities, and the triathlon and road running events (including a 5k and 10k), will also be open to the public.
The funds raised will be deployed through four existing specialist organisations – Police Care UK, The Fire Fighters Charity, The Ambulance Staff Charity and Duty to Care (NHS) – who collectively support all emergency responders to improve their mental health.
Duty to Care, for example, provides NHS workers with free one-to-one online consultations. This is followed by wellbeing support including coaching, yoga and other holistic interventions.
The Gratitude Games is the brainchild of serving Buckinghamshire fire fighter Mike Downard and sports industry veteran Simon Rider, who founded the charity UK Emergency Services Giving (UKESG) to help ensure every Emergency Responder has access to the tailored mental health support they need.
Commenting on the issues that drove him to develop the Gratitude Games as the key fundraising platform for UKESG, Mike said: “In my 18 years as a fire fighter, I have seen first-hand the devastating impact that working on the front line can have on your mental health.
“You can be dealing with multiple traumatic events on a daily basis and that can really take its toll.
“The pandemic has affected the mental health of many, but especially those of us in the emergency services – so there is an urgent need to make sure the specialist support is readily available.
“To help make this a reality, we are calling upon the British public and businesses to get behind the Gratitude Games – by donating to the fundraising appeal and sharing the message of the Games to friends and family.”
One of the first supporters of the Gratitude Games is Ricky Nuttall, a fire fighter who recently appeared on Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins.
Ricky experienced a steep decline in his mental health after the Grenfell fire.
“I began to feel depressed and anxious and my relationships started to crumble,” he said.
“One evening, I sat on my living room floor and cried for four hours straight. I then realised that I couldn’t handle feeling this sad for the rest of my life. I didn’t see how I could recover.
“That was the first time I wanted to kill myself and it scared me.”
The Gratitude Games will raise public awareness of the mental health challenges faced by so many of our Emergency Responders, whilst enabling people to show their appreciation for the essential work they do.