The Distressing Incident Support Toolkit (DIST) is designed as a self-help, peer and line manager resource to help build resilience, assist when responding to emergencies, and for post-incident support.
It will complement the already running Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) programme and other support systems, as HM Coastguard boosts tools to help deal with potentially distressing incidents.
It has been developed using existing materials from a wide range of credible sources, and draws on accepted models of mental health support.
DIST will also be added to the training process for new staff, giving them ways to improve their own mental wellbeing and prepare them for their role with HM Coastguard.
It will be rolled out nationally through a number of DIST champions, with the first session being held at the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Fareham on Wednesday 11 October.
Virginia McVea, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said: “The welfare of our team will always be our priority and knowing that the incidents HM Coastguard deal with are often traumatic, we will continue to put our efforts into exploring new ways of enhancing what we already provide in training and support.
“I hear so many stories about the difference that it makes when Coastguards check in on each other and I encourage everyone to keep doing that.”
Mike Buratti, HM Coastguard Area Commander for the North West of England, has been heavily involved in the creation of DIST. He said it was a vital resource for everyone who operates in high-risk, highly emotive scenarios, adding to the existing support toolkit.
He explained: “TRiM, for example, is a great resource that can identify staff and Coastguard Rescue Officer volunteers that may be at risk of developing psychological illness linked to exposure to a potential trauma.
“DIST will be a wonderful addition to that. But it will also give coastguards newly focused training on dealing with self-harm incidents, equipping our first responders with extra skills to handle some of the most difficult incidents we face.
“We are just starting the work to train the champions who will be invaluable to it working.”
The DIST package will be rolled out by champions based in the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres around the UK, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Fareham, and each coastal operations area.
The toolkit is made up of modules covering resilience, response and recovery and includes a section on ‘personal connections’, offering additional resources to Coastguard Rescue Officers who are a part of the community they protect.