Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Firefighter with post traumatic stress disorder helps mental health scheme

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Media captionMr Hair was diagnosed with PTSD in 2014

A firefighter whose post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) began after witnessing a fatal fire is urging others to speak up about mental health.

Mark Hair, who did not want to talk in detail about the 2010 incident for personal reasons, said it affected his mental health for four years.

Mr Hair was diagnosed with PTSD in 2014 after experiencing vivid nightmares, flashbacks and feelings of anger.

He is now helping a scheme in Hampshire to tackle mental health problems.

As part of the 'Let's Talk About It' campaign, set up by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, Mr Hair stepped forward to help others by openly talking about his own "traumatic" experience and offering peer-to-peer help to colleagues.

'Stigma'

The campaign offers assessment and support to individuals after exposure to significantly traumatic events.

A recent study by mental health charity MIND found nine out of 10 people working in the fire service have experienced stress and poor mental health at work and a quarter of emergency service workers had thought about ending their lives.

Recalling his own experiences, Mr Hair, from Southampton, said: "I realised I had become a little grumpier than normal, I had irrational thoughts and behaviours, nightmares and flashbacks. One day I just broke down in tears - that's when I decided to ask for help.

"We need to accept that mental health issues do occur within the emergency services as well as in the broader environment. And it's not anything to be ashamed of."

Sean Starbuck, national officer for the Fire Brigades Union said a stigma surrounding mental health still exists, but they are trying to make changes.

He said: "We get people who come to work who daren't call in sick with mental health issues and would rather call in sick with something else rather than say I've got a mental health issue."


Symptoms of PTSD

  • Symptoms of PTSD usually start within six months, and sometimes only a few weeks after the trauma
  • After the traumatic event you can feel grief-stricken, depressed, anxious, guilty and angry. In PTSD you may also:
  • Have flashbacks and nightmares, reliving the event in your mind, again and again
  • Avoid thinking and feeling upset about it by keeping busy and avoiding anything or anyone that reminds you
  • Be 'on guard' - you stay alert all the time, can't relax, feel anxious and can't sleep
  • Feel physical symptoms - aches and pains, diarrhoea, irregular heartbeats, headaches, feelings of panic and fear, depression
  • Start drinking too much alcohol or using drugs (including painkillers)

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