We're now part of the York & North Yorkshire Combined Authority

12 June, 2017

Emergency volunteers get funding for mental health first aid training

North Yorkshire and York's Major Incident Response Team (MIRT), a volunteer group that supports victims of emergencies and is currently working with local people affected by the Manchester bombing, has secured funding for mental health first aid training.

MIRT was formed 26 years ago by North Yorkshire County Council and is a unique volunteer group. No other local authority in England has a similar group offering support to residents affected by trauma. In an emergency, any of MIRT’s 35 volunteers can be called upon by local authorities, the police or other emergency services to offer practical and emotional support to victims, whether the crisis affects one family or a whole community.

Currently, team members are supporting people affected by last month’s Manchester Arena terrorist bombing, either because they were present or have family members who were.

Alex Sutcliffe, manager of MIRT, said: “We are working very closely with other services to support people who have been affected by the Manchester bombing.

“Our work is about keeping people safe if they are experiencing post-trauma stress or depression. It involves listening to and talking to people. As a large team, we have the flexibility to get in quickly, and people do benefit from a rapid but light-touch intervention. We can recognise if people need a clinical intervention, but often the support we give means they do not need further intervention. Because of the work we do, ongoing training is always important.”

MIRT has been awarded a £8,510 grant from North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s Community Safety Service Fund to pay for two members of the group to be trained as mental health first aid instructors. Those two will then be qualified to train new volunteers, avoiding the cost of external training.

“Mental health first aid training has always been essential to our work,” said Alex. “Our work is all connected to looking after the emotional wellbeing of people, which is where we started 26 years ago. Our core business is helping people with their emotional resilience.”

County Councillor Carl Les, Leader of the Council and Executive Member for Emergency Planning and Community Safety, said: “MIRT is an excellent example of volunteers supporting individuals and communities across the county and doing so by working with various local authority and emergency services partners. It is all about working in partnership to keep people safe, and having mental health first aid instructors is another resource to look after the welfare of our communities.”

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said: “This vital volunteer service offers practical and emotional support to individuals or communities, caught up in traumatic incidents in North Yorkshire or the City of York, a service that I feel incredibly passionately about.

“I was delighted to be able to offer funding for two members to be trained as mental health first aid instructors, who will go on to train all existing and future MIRT volunteers, enabling professional and effective intervention, post major incidents where emotional trauma support is needed.”

Mental health first aid training teaches people to: spot early signs of a mental health issue; feel confident helping someone experiencing a mental health issue; help to prevent someone hurting themselves or others; help to stop a mental health issue getting worse; help someone recover faster; guide someone towards the right support; and reduce the stigma of mental health issues.

“It is a real morale boost to the team to receive this investment from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Community Safety Services Fund,” said Alex, “particularly because of the close relationship we have with North Yorkshire Police and partners. It is a tribute to the professionalism of the team.”

In future, the two trained instructors may also be able to train members of County Council staff, police staff and community groups.