There’s no rhyme or reason when it comes to stress – and when it builds up, it can have huge knock-on effects on your overall mental wellbeing.

We aim to proactively support you as early as possible, to help you to navigate difficult times and find the tools you need to overcome whatever life throws at you – before your wellbeing is impacted any further.

For some people, a stay at Harcombe House, our centre in Devon, and participation in our Reset Programme pay be beneficial to their mental health, while for others, remote 1:1 counselling may be more appropriate. And those are just two of many ways we could support you.

One person who has experienced both of those – as well as physical rehabilitation years before – is LFB firefighter Amy Martin, 36.

Help us to help more people like Amy by donating now

“When I first joined the fire service, members of my family weren’t well. One of my trainers mentioned the Charity to me then. I’ve known about it and supported it ever since,” says Amy.

“I had support for the first time myself at least five or six years ago, I visited Marine Court for a knee injury. This was for rehab to get me back to work, it was a brilliant programme. You get 1:1 assessments and then they develop a programme for you. They take a holistic approach so the week is great for fully preparing you to be back at work.”

She adds: “More recently I’ve been off sick with stress…. I am just getting myself back to work at the moment and it is tough but I can see myself using things I’ve learnt this year to ever so slightly change my approach… baby steps.”

“I’m not someone who really likes wallowing in things or feeling rubbish, so I put on a front and struggled for quite a long time. I exhausted all my coping techniques that would usually make things better. Sometimes this kind of resilience can mean things go too far before you realise you just aren’t OK,” she adds.

“I found myself at work thinking, ‘I don’t know how I’ll get through the day’, this was my break point, I have always loved my job, when I sat there thinking this, I realised, ‘this isn’t right, I shouldn’t be feeling like this’.

“I contacted The Fire Fighters Charity myself, no-one else needs to know if you feel private about your situation. They were brilliant, they told me about what they could offer and allowed me to consider what suited me best. The team said I’d benefit from a two-fold approach, so signed me up for some 1:1 counselling remotely, as well as a place on the Reset Programme at Harcombe House straight away.

“I’m still going through the counselling sessions, but I did Harcombe earlier this year.”

Amy says, looking back now, she can see there were some warning signs that she was starting to struggle, but at the time she didn’t recognise them as anything more than normal ‘life stresses’.

“Maybe this is the problem, we all have a lot going on and our lives are full of ‘adulting’. We all have ways of coping with these everyday stressors that we probably aren’t even aware of. Sometimes it’s hard to recognise when actually things have gone further than the norm for you and when those coping mechanisms are making things worse instead of better,” she says.

Amy visited Harcombe House earlier in 2022 and she says it proved a huge step forward for her.

“I found the week really useful, it was an amazing break – I feel like all adults should get one, to really focus on yourself for a few days, it’s amazing what that does for you. Even simple things like not having to plan your day or your dinner. Everything you do at Harcombe House is about decisions you are making purely for yourself, there’s something quite powerful about being given the space from ‘real life’ to put yourself first” says Amy.

And she says the fact the programme is group-based proved particularly beneficial to her – something she found surprising.

“I think, knowing it’s group-based, may have put me off at first – I wouldn’t have thought that would have suited me,” adds Amy. “But it was so much better than I could have imagined and there’s no pressure to speak up at all.

“There are always people in a group who are naturally quieter but there was no negativity about that. Everyone listened and was present. I imagine for the people who were more private, they got a lot just from listening to other people’s stories. I found myself listening to others, thinking ‘I totally understand what you mean’, there is definitely something healing about feeling both understood and that you are not alone.

“Bizarrely, I think group work like this actually really suits our role as firefighters. We spend half our lives operating in a group, including getting support from each other, that’s how we function.

“I felt a lot more understood after the week. You will enjoy it!

“Unfortunately for me I found things all-consuming when I got back to work afterwards, and that’s when I went off sick. I didn’t have time to put everything in place that I’d learnt from the course, old habits die hard I guess.”

Realising she needed further support, and time to reflect on the week, Amy began having some remote 1:1 counselling with us.

“The counselling has been amazing,” says Amy. “I really clicked with my psychological therapist and liked her style. I’ve learnt from this experience that that’s so important. A lot of people might give up on counselling forever if they don’t connect with someone on the first go, I guess I’d say, if you can face trying again, it is worth it when you find the right fit for yourself.

“I feel that she very clearly understands what I’m going through.”

“Particularly in this job, you might think you don’t deserve the help – but I’d encourage anyone to make that call.”

Amy Martin

Amy adds: “I’ve got a lot of friends that I talk to, but there’s something different about a conversation with a counsellor.

“Particularly for me, she’s been able to summarise back to me in about 5 minutes what it seems to take me an hour to say. This just cuts through all the fluff that you’re trying to get your head round. I’ve found it so useful.

“They change the lens, or refocus you, so you’re not just going down the same spiral of bad thoughts, they help you to see if there’s a different way you can approach it.”

Amy agreed to share some of her story in the hope that it may encourage even one person to ask for help.

“There hasn’t been one person in this Charity that has put me off… it’s an incredibly welcoming service, so even if you’re just calling to ask a question, it’s a comfortable process,” she says.

“The worst thing is often making the call. We all think, ‘I don’t need this’, for me I was like a yoyo, feeling OK one minute and then a wreck the next. Typically, I always find the minute you ask for help you somehow feel better that day and like you are now wasting people’s time. That’s a classic, particularly in this job, you might think you don’t deserve the help – but I’d encourage anyone to make that call, you can always change your mind.

“On my week at Harcombe House, a lot of the people I was with felt the same as this. But then I would listen to other’s stories and think, ‘you definitely deserve to be here!’ For some reason we see it more in others than in ourselves.

“I won’t say this is a quick fix, you don’t get fit by one trip to the gym after all. I am still working on things and unfortunately the stressors triggering my situation haven’t gone away so I am still tackling stuff. My work with The Fire Fighters Charity has made me feel stronger though and more able to face my challenges.”

We couldn’t help people like Amy without your support. Donate now to ensure we can be there for you and your colleagues when you’re most in need:

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