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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2017-05-05

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

Local News Report  - Mobile Page


'Blue Blue Light Relay' on Merseyside
Photographs and Video by Patrick Trollope

OUR Blue Light is a growing network of emergency and essential service personnel, who are aiming to be the grass roots of change surrounding health and wellbeing within the work place. This is the story of how the concept of 'Our Blue Light' was born, and how the emergency and essential services are coming together for the Mental Health Relay to revolutionise the way we think, and talk about mental health in the UK.

Dan Farnworth and Rich Morton are colleagues that work together in Blackpool for North West Ambulance Service (NWAS). 2 years ago, Dan publicised his story through Mind about how he developed PTSD after going to a case that involved child abuse, and the child subsequently died. This was 1 of the 1st written publications of an emergency service personnel writing about their own story to do with mental health, to reduce stigma and highlight the importance of much needed support the blue light community.

Following on from this, the 'Mind - Blue Light Programme' was initiated into NWAS. The Blue Light Programme's function is to help educate emergency service personnel to help signpost their colleagues if they are suffering with mental health problems, whilst helping to reduce stigma at the same time.

A year ago, Dan and Rich started working together as full time crew mates. They both saw the potential and good work of the Mind Blue Light Programme, whilst seeing there was a lot of work to be done to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health within the blue light community. They came up with the Blue Light Walk to raise awareness of the hidden problem within the blue light community.

The walk was started by Dan and Rich following the shocking statistics that came out from a Mind survey. For example, 1 in 4 emergency service personnel will develop suicidal thoughts throughout their career, and 5% will attempt to act on them. This is significantly higher in comparison to the wider public. Last year, Dan, Rich and a couple of colleagues from Blackpool Ambulance Station, walked 150 miles from Scarborough to Blackpool via different emergency service's stations to promote their goals surrounding mental health awareness, stigma and the Mind Blue Light Programme.

The Blue Light Walk showed the underpinning need for mental health support within the emergency services, and the necessity to break down the stigma and get conversations started. Therefore, the Blue Light Walk quickly expanded into a network between emergency and essential service personnel, surrounding all matters of health and wellbeing. This intertwined with Dan and Rich's story, the Royal Foundation and Heads Together were encapsulated about how Dan opened to Rich about his concerns around his mental health, and the simplicity and power of that conversation that changed Dan's life for the better.

This led on to Dan and Rich to be invited down to London on World Mental Health Day 2016. They joined the stage along side the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry to speak openly about mental health and the need for change.

Prince Harry personally challenged them both on World Mental Health Day to carry on with the work of Our Blue Light and to do the London Marathon for Heads Together next year This was proceeded by Dan and Rich to be the first of a series of high profile talking heads videos, to show the power of the conversation and it's #oktosay.

To collaborate with the Heads Together campaign and the:- 'Mental Health Marathon', Our Blue Light's main aim this year is to break down the stigma surrounding mental health, and raise awareness of the underlying issue of mental health problems within the emergency and essential services.

Our Blue Light decided to use the expanding network to create the Mental Health Relay across the North of England. The main aim is to engage staff, and the public, in events to get people talking about mental health. The Our Blue Light Torch, that has been made in one of the last remaining forges in the UK will travel the North of England for 21 weeks. Each weekend, a different emergency or essential service will be challenged to get the torch from one location to the next, via any means.

On the 29 April 2017, the relay was launched with an Emergency Service's Day on the Blackpool Promenade, where the torch then be sent off in spectacular fashion across the North Sea to Southport, via Southport Insure Rescue Trust (SORT) Lifeboat Crew. Then it headsed to Southport's Merseyside Fire and Rescue Station, carried via both Southport Lifeboat crew members and HM Coastguard's Southport Team. Then the following day it was off to Liverpool, stopping off at from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters, Bridle Road, Bootle to Liverpool?s Pier Head, took place on 30 April 2017.

This section of the Torch Relay had a wide range of groups taking part. They included Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service Heritage and Education Center, who supplied a vintage Dennis F8 Fire Engine. The North West Ambulance Service, who supplied Ambulances and a Vintage NHS Ambulance, HM Coastguard, Merseyside and Cheshire Blood Bikes and other Emergence Services Vehicles. The Relay also hand members of St John Ambulance, Merseyside Volunteer Police Cadet Scheme, the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service's Fire Cadets. Other supporters taking part included a group of Bikers, who are active in helping raise money for our Emergency Service Charities and most where members of the Emergency Services in some form.

A few websites of those who took part in the Liverpool and Southport sections are as follows:-


The torch was then handed over to Merseyside Police. The next leg will sets off from Merseyside Police Headquarters, to Chester Police on 6 May then on 7 May it heads off to Warrington. Then it will travel on 13 May from Warrington to Leigh, following on, on 14 May 2017, from Leigh to Manchester City Centre. Over 19 May to 20 May it will be on the Greater Manchester Run. It departs on 28 May from Manchester to Glossop. It will then head on over 3 June to 4 June 2017, to the Peak District Event. The 'Handover of the torch' to Yorkshire, will take place on 10 June. The torch will then make its way across Yorkshire and the North East, where it will end up back in the North West, on the 9 September 2017.

Then on the 16 September 2017, it will be the start of the Blue Light Walk 2017, where a team of representatives from the Emergency and Essential Services, will come together to walk over 120 miles, from Carlisle back to Blackpool, in 7 days.

On the 7th day, the 22 September 2017, the event will be opened up to all emergency and essential services staff, and the public to join in on the 'Last Leg' from Glasson Dock (Lancaster) to Blackpool.

The 'Last Leg' will finish at Viva in Blackpool, where the walkers will be able to see the finalists selected for the 'Dance Your Blues Away' competition. The participants are all amateur dancers, and are representatives from a wide range of Emergency and Essential Services. Each dancer will be paired with a professional dance partner and learn a genre of dance. The finalists will compete for the Our Blue Light trophy at the charity ball the next evening on the 23 September 2017.

The 'Our Blue Light - Charity Ball' will be a grand affair, where guests from all areas of the community will come together to raise money for charity, whilst raising awareness of mental health and help to reduce stigma.

More information about this event can be found online, on the Official 'Our Blue Light' website:- OurBlueLight.Com.




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Southport Reporter (R) Bourder




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