Glasgow firefighter volunteers his time to help protect the mental health of emergency service workers and Armed Forces staff
16 September 2020
A firefighter has spoken about his efforts to support members of Scotland's emergency service family who may be suffering from mental ill health.
Watch Commander Gary McGregor is based at Glasgow's Maryhill Fire Station and volunteers with charity helpline Sapper Support.
Answering calls from those from the Armed Forces and emergency services, Gary listens, offers support and signposts those experiencing mental ill health.
Gary, who is himself ex Armed Services, believes non-judgemental listening and sincerity can improve the mindset of those suffering mental ill health.
The SFRS has recently launched its own national Mental Health Strategy to ensure staff are provided with the tools and knowledge to better look after their own mental health and to help spot potential signs in others that they may be struggling.
The strategy was drafted by Deputy Assistant Chief Officer John Miller who recently spoke with Prince William about the efforts of emergency service staff to champion mental health.
A passionate advocate for mental health, Gary is himself now appealing to emergency service workers across Scotland to seek support and not to suffer in silence.
He said: "I think it’s very important that people who are struggling are given the right information and have someone on the other end of the phone who genuinely listens.
"As volunteers and as people who have worked within the Armed Forces and emergency services, we understand what many of our callers are going through, which helps massively.
"At the start of the call sometimes people can understandably be quiet, but by the end we have been able to break down barriers.
"There have been times I have taken calls while out hill climbing with my dogs and we have been able to have a laugh about the fact I’m out here getting soaked while on the call.
“People can’t thank you enough for being there for them and listening. Our main priority is getting the word out there that help is here."
Sapper Support was started by a close friend of Gary's to provide a 24/7 support line to those experiencing mental health challenges.
Sapper volunteers undergo training from mental health charity MIND and can provide guidance and signposting to callers.
The charity also offers funding towards private psychiatric assessments.
For Gary, being there for others inspires him to volunteer his time.
He said: “I’ve always been involved with training and enjoy passing on knowledge.
“Mental health support should not be a box ticking exercise and people calling for help need to be listened to as each call is different.
"We want people to know that support is here and that we can get this sorted together."