Tommy Richardson is an FBU member serving the public in Tyne and Wear and has benefited from the courses provided by FBU Education. Tommy was recently awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal and in this blog Tommy describes his recent achievements.
My name is Tommy Richardson and I am a Firefighter with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service. I’m based at Byker Community Station where our Swift Water Rescue Boat and Specialism is based.
Being a Swift Water Rescue Technician in addition to my Firefighter role, I have seen both the emotional and psychological effects that the many incidents which we attend has on my colleagues. I have seen the grief and heart break that family members and friends experience when they have lost someone dear to them and I have seen the emotional impacts which victims experience whilst struggling through their difficult times.
It was as a result of this that I became interested in learning more about mental health and how – as emergency service officers – we can do more not only for members of the public but also for ourselves.
I received an email from FBU Learning which attracted my interest when I saw that Mental Health Awareness was one of the courses on offer and bearing in mind that my last experience of learning was in 2004 when I joined the Fire Service, I contacted Ian Dick and we met to discuss further what was involved.
Feeling encouraged by what I heard from Ian, I agreed to sign up to the Mental Health Awareness Course.
Having a month to complete each of the modules was beneficial and made it easier to fit completing the additional work in around my on duty hours. I also found it helpful having the ability to complete at home; I would have struggled to fit in the work required if I was required to attend a college or university. I found the process to be simple and very easy to understand with very supportive and knowledgeable representations from FBU Learning which I was able to contact any time either by telephone or via email - Teresa Steventon and Tracy Lillico.
Surprisingly, I did enjoy undergoing the learning experience – something which I hadn’t expected having been so long since I carried out any educational advancement. It would perhaps be something to consider for the future to go digital and pop the modules and syllabus online. As someone who struggles with writing and its quality I would have found it easier to complete this online rather than complete the workbooks by hand. I also think that I would have been able to complete it more quickly.
Having now completed and successfully passed the course I can see how beneficial the knowledge which I have learned will be within my role, not only in supporting my colleagues and fellow officers during the course of deploying our roles and the emotional and psychological impacts of that; but also in how I now have more understanding with members of the public which I interact with at incidents.
The work which I am carrying out around Water Safety has highlighted how some of the most vulnerable in our communities are struggling with aspects of their mental health – some diagnosed and some untreated due to wider cuts within our medical systems. Having increased my awareness of mental health conditions I now have an increased level of confidence in dealing with such matters in the course of my role as well as having a greater insight in understanding my own emotional impacts.
In my personal life it has given me a greater understanding and empathy with members of my own family whom I know have in the past struggled with some of the mental health conditions which were covered within the syllabus.
An additional benefit was being able to share this new found knowledge with my wife. Due to her interest in the work which I have been undertaking, we were able to talk through and discuss content and examples which appeared in the modules – looking at various scenarios and outcomes. She also found the course to be very enjoyable and has declared an interest in enrolling on some of the courses herself – if that was ever to become possible in the future. (It is).
I would definitely enrol again and would certainly recommend to others who had the opportunity that FBU Learning was a cost effective, user and time friendly, beneficial way of undertaking further education and fitting in around everything else which goes on in our day to day lives. I would certainly recommend the Mental Health Awareness Course for anyone working within the Emergency Services arena.