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Emergency service Blue Light Choir perform at the Sage Gateshead

31 May 2017 12:30 PM

Blue Light choir [View Full Size]

A choir made up of members of the emergency services have performed at the Sage theatre - to raise awareness of mental health.

The Blue Light Choir performed a full concert to a sell-out crowd at the Sage in Gateshead at 8pm on Friday evening (May 26).

Members of the choir all work in the emergency services for Northumbria Police, Durham Constabulary, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue, NEAS, North East Ambulance Service and NHS.

PCSO Holly Went, who works on a neighbourhood team in Morpeth for Northumbria Police, organised the event on behalf of the choir and was delighted to be able to perform in front of a bumper crowd of 400 people.

She said: "I came up with the idea for a choir around two years ago and back then the idea was simply to just bring together all of the emergency services in a social setting.

"It has developed a bit from then and now it is a really large network of around 70 people in which we can talk about the strains of the job and how it affects our mental health and wellbeing.

"People travel from all across the north east for rehearsals and I have personally found it really supportive to have a network of like-minded people who I can speak to about the pressures of the job.

"The charity MIND have a regional base up here and they have already done a lot of work with the emergency services to create a Blue Light Network where the emergency services can share good practice.

"This is an extension of that and is just another forum where people can come together outside of work and speak to each other about any struggles they may be going through.

"Figures show that 9 in 10 emergency service staff have suffered stress, low mood or poor mental health at some point in their career so these kind of groups are vital."

The choir performed a range of songs including pieces such as Proud and Everybody Hurts. Holly performed a solo rendition of 'Make You Feel My Love' and she says she is a little nervous to perform in such an iconic venue on the bank of the Quayside.

She said: "It's amazing that we had the chance to perform at the Sage and it was a night I will remember. I want to thank them for allowing us to host this event there as it does make it all the more special.

"Some of us were a little nervous to perform in front of such a big crowd but it was amazing and everbody loved it. We are really proud that there was so much interest and hopefully it does help us to raise a bit more awareness of mental health.

"We now want to take the choir to Manchester and perform in a concert to raise funds for those affected by the atrocity at the arena last week. The response of the emergency services in the city has been incredible and the community spirit the city has shown has moved us all."

Last year Northumbria Police Chief Constable Steve Ashman and the Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird QC signed Mind's Blue Light Time to Change Pledge.

As part of that pledge, supervisors across the force were trained in how to recognise the signs of poor mental health in the past six months so they can offer advice and support to those who need it.

Northumbria Police also recruited a number of Blue Light Champions within their workforce and they offer specialist peer support to their colleagues.

That work is complimented by the support and commitment to well-being already given by supervision, Human Resources and the Occupational Health Unit within the force.

For further information about Mind’s Blue Light Programme visit www.mind.org.uk/bluelight. A video of the performance can also be found on our Facebook page.