Oscar Kilo at the Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium 2023

Published 31 Oct 2023
Written by
Oscar Kilo
National Police Wellbeing Service
Reading time
3 mins

On November 1, 2023, the National Police Wellbeing Service, in collaboration with other emergency responder organisations and charities will host the Emergency Responder Mental Health and Wellbeing Symposium 2023 at Manchester Central Convention Complex.

The event, which is held on behalf of the Emergency Responders Senior Leader’s Board is in its third year and aims to bring together senior leaders, practitioners and front-line staff to share best practice across the emergency services sector to support the mental health and wellbeing of its workforces.

We are honoured for our 2023 event to have an opening address via video message from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and for the event to be hosted by former BBC Breakfast presenter, Dr Sian Williams, who is now a Chartered Psychologist working in the NHS, supporting police officers, firefighters and ambulance staff.

This year will see several significant issues being addressed, including suicide prevention, post incident and trauma support, prevention and management of psychological stress and organisational culture, specifically reducing misogyny and improving sexual safety.

In order to properly learn and understand an issue, it is crucial to hear the voices of those directly affected with personal experience. So, in addition to our subject matter expert speakers, there will be two lived experience panels during the day. The first made up of family members from three emergency services, who will discuss the challenges faced by the families of emergency responders. The second lived experience panel will be focussed on the very complex and sensitive issue of suicide.

Not only will the event explore these critical issues, but it will also see the launch of several high-profile brand-new areas of work to support emergency responder mental health including:

  • Brand new resources and strategy for supporting the families of police officers and staff - a development of the Police Covenant
  • A new digital hub for all blue light responders to support their mental health and wellbeing
  • A suicide crisis line for the Fire Service
  • The Network of Emergency Services Therapists - a sustainable national network of experienced psychotherapists who can deliver effective and bespoke mental health treatment­ tailored specifically to the needs of emergency responders.


Gavin Stephens, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council said:

“All public service, whether charitable, vocational, voluntary or paid enriches communities and rewards those that serve. It takes someone special to give emergency service, and the nature of the role requires the understanding, love and support of families. Emergency service workers cannot care for others, unless they too are cared for. Bringing together employers, health experts researchers, and practitioners all motivated by improving mental health is important for the emergency services, our families and our communities.”  


Andy Rhodes, Service Director for the National Police Wellbeing Service said;

“We are honoured to be able to host this year’s event on behalf of the Emergency Responders Senior Leader’s Board.

“These annual events are a critical date in the calendar to provide an opportunity for some of the brightest minds and most influential people within the emergency services mental health and wellbeing arena to come together to not only share best practice, but to showcase some of the impressive work that is being done to support our emergency services personnel, ensuring that mental health and wellbeing remains a priority for all services.”


Daren Mochrie, Chair of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives said:

“Ambulance staff are at the frontline of emergency and urgent patient care, often dealing with traumatic and psychologically challenging incidents. Events like this special symposium, which bring together blue light services whose staff are facing very similar pressures, are to be welcomed as a place where we can share new ideas, discuss best practice and really make a difference to the mental health and general wellbeing of our biggest asset, our staff.”


Mark Hardingham, Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council said:

“Fire service staff – whether that be firefighters, control room staff or other personnel - can be exposed to the most traumatic and distressing incidents. These experiences, alongside many other issues that can have an impact on mental health, can have both an immediate and cumulative effect on their health and wellbeing and so it is essential that the right support is in place. Bringing together the emergency services family at this conference will enable us to share learning on policy, practice and interventions and help to reduce the stigma around mental health.”


Dr Sian Williams who is hosting the event for the second year running said;

“Blue light workers run towards danger and help us in our hour of need, but to do that, they need to be physically and psychologically resilient. I know, through working with the emergency services as a psychologist, how important it is to protect and safeguard their mental wellbeing and I’m thrilled to be hosting this vital conference again, to listen and learn from those in the job and those supporting them to do it. 


More about the Senior Leaders Board

The Prince of Wales and The Royal Foundation convened The Emergency Responder Senior Leaders Board – the first of its kind, bringing together leaders from across all of the UK’s emergency services on the issue of mental health. It promotes collaborative working across the nation’s emergency services to ensure that all emergency responders receive the mental health support they need. 

The Board was established by His Royal Highness in response to a recommendation arising from a research project commissioned by The Royal Foundation in 2018, looking into the mental health and wellbeing of emergency responders in the UK. Conducted by King’s College London and the Open University, the work identified a need for greater sharing of ‘better practice’ across the emergency services sector to best support the mental health of its workforces. 

The Senior Leaders Board is now chaired on rotation on an annual basis by senior leaders from each service. Its purpose is to:

  • encourage cross-sector sharing of knowledge and best practice.
  • work together towards embedding a better understanding of mental health for all UK emergency responders at an organisational level.

The aims of the board are:

  • Foster increased collaboration between the emergency services and the charity sector.
  • Construct and agree a delivery plan to implement systemic change.
  • Create a platform to share best practice, knowledge and findings.
  • Provide a mechanism through which the leaders of the emergency services can access the relevant research to inform their policy choices.

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