Fire service takes part in positive mental health project

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) employees are taking part in a creative project to promote better mental health.

The project is led by arts and mental health organisation, HOOT, and forms part of their ‘Going Sane?’ campaign.

Ten members of WYFRS staff are attending 10 one-and-a-half hour sessions to explore what positive mental health looks like and to assess how a creative approach to “going sane” could aid not only our own staff but also the members of the public they come into contact with.

The fire service carries out thousands of Home Fire Safety Checks each year in a bid to prevent blazes and put in place measures to safeguard vulnerable people from fire.

Fire Prevention Manager Sarah Laidlow-Moore said: “Many of the individuals we engage with who are at a high risk of having a serious fire experience mental health issues.  

“Being able to understand and promote what actions and approaches our staff might take that can lead to better mental health in the community will have a very positive impact on our ability to make West Yorkshire Safer.”

Visual artist Kerri Butterworth and dance artist Rosemary Spencer are leading the sessions with the fire service at the HOOT headquarters in Huddersfield. Both underwent training with HOOT last summer.

Kerri said: “The Going Sane? project is about the relationship between sanity, madness and creativity. Each workshop is 10 weeks of movement and visual arts.

“The Going Sane? project is in its second year and it’s a new way of approaching conversation around mental health and wellbeing which does not focus on the negative but focuses on what keeps us well.”

Rosemary added: “I really hope that the explorations we make, through art, dance and creativity, into what keeps us all mentally well as part of the Going Sane? project, will nourish not only the individual participants but also positively filter back throughout WYFRS and the community they serve.”

WYFRS Fire Prevention Youth Trainer, Ken Hunter, is one of the participants.

He said: “The Going Sane? project is an exciting opportunity for me to use creative media to work with my colleagues to explore what being sane really is.

“Many of the people we work with in the community are experiencing mental health issues, so anything we can do to promote ways of achieving positive mental health as part of our work will be really beneficial. It’s also a great deal of fun working with colleagues in a completely different way.”

Sally Barker, creative lead artist for the project, said: “The Going Sane? project is a two year project running across Kirklees with twelve different organisations, businesses and community groups, who  have never worked with artists before.

“Each year twelve artists (24 across 2 years) go into six organisations to run these sessions. These ‘New Blood’ artists have been selected to deliver exciting work across a wide range of art forms and will work collaboratively in pairs throughout their projects.

“In this current year of ‘New Blood’ artists, we have visual artists, musicians, dancers, a singer, a writer, theatre and drama practitioners and a comic artist, who are delivering fantastic exploratory sessions with the fire service, the WomenCentre, Lifeline, Connect Housing and the history department of Huddersfield University, working together with St Anne’s Community Services.

“In 2016 we will see the results of all twelve projects coming together in their various art forms for a wonderful celebratory public event.”

For more information visit www.goingsane.co.uk and check out the online blog for a glimpse into the dynamic work the artists are doing as they develop creative work on the theme of sanity, madness and keeping mentally well.