A fun day on Blackpool’s Comedy Carpet helped kick off the inaugural Our Blue Light mental health relay.
The event, which saw workers from a range of emergency services chat to visitors to the resort, saw the Our Blue Light torch set off on a five-month tour of the north of England.
Paramedic Dan Farnworth, who launched Our Blue Light alongside his colleague Rich Morton, in a bid to smash the stigma surrounding illnesses such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), said: “The message is that it’s okay to talk about your mental health.”
The 31-year-old, who works in Blackpool and lives in Kirkham, has been at the forefront of a national campaign backed by the royal family after opening up about his own battles with PTSD, which he developed after being called to the murder of a young girl.
He and Rich have already completed a series of feats to raise cash for charity and awareness, including a trek from Scarborough to Blackpool last year, and the London Marathon last weekend.
“Last year was one walk but this year the plan is to take mental health, and the message that it’s okay to talk about it, on the road,” he said.
“We want to hear other people’s stories and to get them talking about it when they hold the torch to reduce the stigma.”
The specially-designed torch was taken to Southport via jet ski after leaving Blackpool on Saturday, and yesterday travelled to Merseyside Police HQ in Liverpool in an array of vintage emergency vehicles.
Future destinations include Chester, Warrington, Leigh, Manchester – where it will complete the Great Manchester Run on May 28 – the Peak District, Yorkshire, and the north east.
In September, the torch will head home on a six-day walk from Carlisle, with people being urged to complete the last leg – Glasson Dock to Blackpool – on September 22.
Mark Woodward, white watch manager at Preston Fire Station, said Saturday’s event also saw Blackpool and Scarborough’s ambulance stations twinned following last year’s lengthy walk, while the Tower also lit up blue.
He said he became involved with the Our Blue Light campaign after meeting Dan at an event in London last year, after the fire service signed a mental health pledge with the charity Change.
He said: “I suffered very poor mental health as a result of several life events. At work at the time I could not speak out.
“I was scared and I knew the stigma was there. I couldn’t share with my colleagues.
“Now people can have them conversations and share their problems knowing they will get support. The help is there now.”
Services involved in Saturday’s fun day, which saw Promenade visitors shown about emergency vehicles, included the police, ambulance service, beach patrol, RNLI, fire service,Southport rescue, and the Coastguard.
Future Our Blue Light events include taking part in the Blackpool Pride parade, a demonstration and talks at Preston Fire and Ambulance Station’s open day, entering the Southport Flower Show 2017, the Dance Your Blues Away competition at the Tower Ballroom in September, and a charity ball, also in the ballroom in September.
Dr Arif Rajpura, director of public health at Blackpool Council, said: “We’re happy to be supporting Our Blue Light by lighting up the illuminations on the Tower.
“The mental wellbeing of our emergency services, as well as all Blackpool residents, is extremely important and we need to reduce the stigma of talking about mental health.
“One in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lives and it is important for people to realise that this isn’t anything that people should ashamed of.
“It is OK to not be OK, to ask for help and to talk about your illness, as that is the only way that we can provide support to people who need it.”
For more information, or to find out how you can take part in the relay, visit www.ourbluelight.com