Queen's birthday honours: Dronfield woman spearheaded training for South Yorkshire's firefighters

A Dronfield woman who used her own mental health experiences to spearhead attempts to tackle the wellbeing of South Yorkshire’s emergency workers has been honoured by the Queen.

Friday, 11th June 2021, 10:33 pm

Jessica Grayson, a watch manager at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, has received the British Empire Medal for services to Mental Health

Ms Grayson organised a mental health awareness session that has been delivered to firefighters at every fire station in the county, focusing on issues relevant to firefighters, before showing staff how they can obtain support.

She said she had been determined to help others after the death of the father of her son. The work was initially voluntary and conducted in her own time, but it had such an impact it became part of her role.

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South Yorkshire firefighters in action
South Yorkshire firefighters in action

Responding to the award she said: “I was very surprised, I wasn’t expecting it. I think it’s rewarding doing work with mental health in the emergency services, then to get recognition for it feels fantastic.

“I'm not great at keeping secrets when its about myself , I’ve had to keep it a secret for a matter of weeks from my family it's been difficult, but now I feel really excited.”

Her brave approach has opened up an organisation-wide discussion about mental health, and her ability to develop trust amongst those she is speaking with is testament to her character and skill as a facilitator.

Her work was particularly timely as it helped to inform the service’s first ever health and well being strategy and inspired a permanent peer support network to be set up to help firefighters who’ve attended traumatic incidents.

Ms Grayson is also a call handler, and helped lead fire control’s response to the 2019 floods and wildfires in the summer of 2018.