Preston firefighter celebrates mental health campaign at awards
A Preston firefighter has appeared on a prime-time television programme celebrating NHS heroes.
Mark Woodward went to London to appear in the NHS Heroes Awards to raise awareness of mental health issues among emergency responders as part of the Our Blue Light campaign.
The programme, which aired last Monday on ITV, celebrated the campaign, which Mark has helped to promote among firefighters.
Mark, 48, who has served with the fire service for 28 years and is the watch manager at Preston fire station, said: “It was just amazing. We went there last Monday and didn’t realise the enormity of it or that Prince William was going to do the speech.
“It was a great privilege to get this backing for Our Blue Light - it really is such an honour.
“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Thousands have gone on our Facebook and Twitter accounts with messages of support.
“I met emergency medical technician Dan Farnworth two years ago in London and that’s where it all started. He had this dream to help emergency service personnel with their mental health and asked for the fire service to be involved.
“It’s changed my life and helped me with my mental health. We have definitely seen the benefits within the organisation.
“It’s saving lives and getting people to talk. When people are at the lowest point they now have the confidence to speak to others.
"I am so grateful to Dan and paramedic Rich Morton for their help and to the Royal Foundation for taking the time to acknowledge our work.
"We just want to spread the message that it's ok not to be ok - if you're feeling low, speak to somebody and have those conversations.
"We want to change the stigma around mental health.
"We are growing the My Blue Light campaign day by day. I feel so much pride about it.
"The feedback I have had is tremendous - but it's not about me it's about reaching out to people who are suffering. We need to look after each other."
The Preston based Watch Manager has been open about his own battles with mental health and is now trying to help others who are suffering
He said: "Over the past 10 years I have suffered with my own mental health. My dad died and life's general circumstances meant that I struggled.
"I received help from the fire service and the NHS and I did recover.
"Now I want to give something back by helping other people seek help."
Mark says the next step for Our Blue Light is to achieve charitable status which they hope to be able to do this year.