Workplace stress is a particular issue in the fire service. Research suggests this is related to excessive demands, relationships with senior managers, changing roles and exposure to traumatic events. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the impact on managers of three mental health promotion interventions. First, a locally developed course entitled “Looking after Wellbeing at Work” (LWW), second, an internationally developed training course: Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). Third, an hour-long leaflet session (LS).
This study used a random allocation design. In total, 176 fire service line managers were randomly allocated to one of the three training conditions: LWW, MHFA, or a control condition (LS). Participants completed The Attitudes to Mental Illness Scale (Luty et al., 2006) and a locally developed “Mental Health Stigma Questionnaire” pre- and post-intervention. Results were analysed using a MANOVA. Participants were also asked to complete a general evaluation, rating all aspects of the courses from poor to excellent. In total, 30 participants were also chosen at random to conduct telephone interviews about their experience of the course. Results were analysed using thematic analysis.
The LWW and MHFA courses were associated with statistically significant improvements in attitudes to mental illness and knowledge/self-efficacy around mental health, comparing pre- and post-scores, and comparing post-scores of the two training courses with a LS. The general evaluations of the LWW and MHFA courses indicated the mean rating for all aspects of both training conditions was good to excellent. Two themes were identified across the qualitative interviews: participants described they were more able to recognise and respond to mental health problems; and participants described changing attitudes towards mental health.
The strengths of this study are the number of participants, random allocation, and multiple facets of evaluation. The quantitative evaluation is limited, as one of the questionnaires has untested psychometric properties. The control condition was limited as it was only offered for one hour, making comparison with two-day training problematic. The qualitative evaluation was useful in gaining descriptive data, however, it may have been possible to conduct a more in-depth analysis with a smaller number of participants.
The results from this study indicate that providing training in mental health awareness and promotion was considered helpful, by managers in the Fire Service and had positive outcomes for attitudes and understanding about mental health. While there are limitations, initial results of training in mental health promotion are promising. Such training has the potential to promote the public's mental health and wellbeing, and improve the quality of life for people with mental health problems.
Thanks to all the training development team and training volunteers who made this possible: Wendy Ward, Malcolm Reid, Michael Lavelle, John Wild, Michele Rickett, Stephen Rickett, Michelle Gray, Mike Kelcey, Steph Meysner, Phil Lindsay, John Dowling, James Herbert, Eddie Galvin, and Suzanne Cochrane. Thanks to the Mental Health First Aid England team for providing facilitator training and for information that contributed to the development of the evaluation questionnaires. Thanks to all at Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service for supporting this project and especially the Training and Development Department. Thanks to Ian Dick at Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service for providing access to research that has been invaluable in the development of this report. Thanks to Ravi Sankar for his help with the interviews and analysis.
Moffitt, J., Bostock, J. and Cave, A. (2014), "Promoting well-being and reducing stigma about mental health in the fire service", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 103-113. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPMH-02-2013-0004
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