FIREFIGHTERS and police are turning to a charity for support for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amid reports of managers mishandling the cases of mental health issues among their front-line workers.
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire and recent terror attacks, around 30 police officers and firefighters have contacted PTSD999 — which offers advice and treatment from people who have worked in the emergency services.
There is a “real distrust” of management and how an admission of having a mental health problem could affect someone’s job, former firefighter Gary Thornett said.
“People who serve in the military are properly looked after, but that’s not the case yet in the fire service,” he said.
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) lead officer for mental health Sean Starbuck said the number of counsellors was cut from 14 to two under former London mayor Boris Johnson.
London Fire Brigade (LFB) has claimed that extra counsellors have been drafted in.
Mr Starbuck warned that a “macho” culture stops people coming forward to reveal their struggles and that some staff members have turned up to work when not fit to do so.
There have been some “pretty horrific stories about how it’s been mismanaged,” he said.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said counsellors had spoken individually to all those involved at Grenfell Tower and further round-theclock provision is ongoing.
The Met Police is rolling out a trauma risk management programme, which has been used in the military, to treat and prevent PTSD. But one officer told PTSD999 the programme was “pointless,” while another said it was being rushed in.
One police officer, who supervises staff that attended the Grenfell disaster as well as the Manchester and London terror attacks, said that the Met’s response was “a lot of smoke and mirrors.”
They said: “Some officers feel there’s nothing for them, not unless they go to their own GPs and seek help themselves.”
Another Met source said: “Nobody trusts anybody in the police, least of all the management team, because of this constant feeling that people are going to be hung out to dry.”
He added that unsatisfactory performance orders have been made against officers with PTSD.
A spokeswoman for the Met said it has “drawn on contingency plans to support officers and staff, with ongoing support programmes being planned.”