Fears for safety of people in mental health crisis as festive season looms
Senior Maritime Operations Officer Joel is more aware than most of the impact the time of year has on mental health.
With Christmas and New Year around the corner, the experienced search and rescue coordinator has spoken out on International Men’s Day to raise awareness.
Joel, based at Holyhead Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), has worked for HM Coastguard since 2011 and said that, in that time, he has sadly dealt with many people struggling with life.
For the past five years, HM Coastguard callouts to incidents involving people threatening self-harm have been on the rise and are among the top reasons for incident response each year.
Joel said: “Everyone in this room has taken a call from someone struggling with their mental health, as an emergency service, it is a part of the job.
“It is why awareness days like International Men’s Day are so important; so that we can highlight the problem and work towards improving it. Prevention is absolutely key. No one likes incidents involving such desperate calls for help, and if it is getting worse, then that suggests more people are struggling than ever before. This doesn’t just affect one gender of course.
“Christmas and New Year can be a really tough time, it’s been a hard year for a lot of people and worried I worry about how many we might see struggling over the holiday period.”
Joel emphasised that there are resources in place for people in the throws of a mental health crisis, including charities focused on suicide prevention, and that a day like International Men’s Day can help to break stigmas around revealing your struggles.
“Ultimately, it is about us being there to help to show the caller that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he added. “I think that, sometimes, we really are their last call for help. When it comes, you just instinctively know when it is serious.
“They can be very hard calls to handle, as you can spend 30 or more minutes talking to someone in an emotionally-fraught situation. It is a feeling like no other when a Coastguard Rescue Officer takes the phone and says ‘we’ve got them’ and you know you got them help in time.
“We are here, we are always here to help, and our team in Holyhead is very experienced (as all of our MRCCs are). But prevention is key. In the perfect world, no one would call us because they haven’t got to the point where they need to – and part of that work is talking about it, raising awareness and also recognising that such sad circumstances can impact on you as well.
“We talk to each other a lot, we have a strong team spirit and work in an atmosphere where help is there when a call stays with you.”
HM Coastguard uses a toolkit and a programme, DIST and TRiM, to support staff post-incident while there are a number of suicide prevention charities available for those to call.