The Firefighter's Charity

Mental & physical support for emergency responders

"Certain noises, sounds, and smells would give me flashbacks, making it hard to ever properly relax."

Mark - Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service

The Firefighters Charity is the UK's leading provider of rehabilitation and support services for the fire and rescue community, including serving and retired firefighters, fire service personnel, and their dependents. I worked with firefighters in Gloustershire to produce creative assets for the charity's fundraising campaigns.

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Having worked as a retained firefighter for Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service for the past 32 years, Wotton-under-Edge Watch Manager, Mark Schofield, has seen his role and his Service evolve significantly, and attended more incidents than he could possibly care to recall.

“As a firefighter you have a good idea of what you’re going to experience but what you can’t always be prepared for is how it will affect you,” he explains. “Whenever you go to an incident involving a person it affects you, and you find different ways to cope with it.”

“On the fire service side, I just lost interest, whereas usually I’m overly keen. Day to day jobs at the station weren’t being completed on time and I was letting things slip through the net. When I got back home I would just sit and stare. Again, nothing was getting done, I just couldn’t be bothered. I couldn’t sleep at night, so I would sleep at lunch times or early evening which then didn’t help at night, which became a vicious circle. Certain noises, sounds and smells would give me flashbacks, making it hard to ever properly relax.”

"They helped me put my demons to rest."

Mark - Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service

This is part of an ongoing project I am working on about emergency responders dealing with PTSD. Evidence indicates that the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is substantially higher among first responders than the general population.

 

For this project, I spent time with firefighter Mark Schofield. Mark's collaboration allowed us to produce a series of images that attempts to illustrate the challenges faced by first responders and the value of The Firefighters Charity's mental and physical rehabilitation services.

Mark began to feel constantly ill and started to experience crippling chest pains, causing him to fear that he was going to have a heart attack. The panic he felt was all-consuming. However, after examination, Mark’s GP told him that his chest was fine and she asked him instead about his general wellbeing. It was at this point that Mark broke down and he was eventually diagnosed with PTSD. He was signed off work and off duties and began a course of medication to help him control his symptoms. However, a colleague recommended another route, as he explains:

“I knew about the charity from the day I first joined the Service and I’ve known many firefighters who have received support from them for physical injuries. I’ve donated money to the charity through my wages over the past 32 years. I have raised money through car washes and the carol float at Christmas, but I didn’t think of the charity at first when I was struggling. It was our Occupational Health advisor that recommended that I got in touch. I knew about the support they provided for physical injuries, but I hadn’t thought of it for mental health support. That’s part of the reason I want to share my story to let others know that they are here to help and the support they provide is first class."

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The Firefighter's Charity