Emergency Dispatcher Ben Hawkins has been working for the East of England Ambulance Service for four years, starting off as a volunteer.

It’s something he always wanted to do.

But 10 months ago he reached as dark a place as is possible to reach. He was struggling with his mental health and if it wasn’t for a friend, he wouldn’t be here now.

Ben’s story will be familiar to many colleagues in the NHS, social care and other keyworkers who are currently on the Covid-19 frontline and who may be struggling under similar mental health pressures.

This is why a new Keeping Well Service has been launched to support health and care workers across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes.

The service is designed to help members of staff working in the NHS, and staff providing care to others in the community, including residential homes and voluntary sector organisations through any mental health challenges they are facing during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and beyond.

The service provides rapid access to support in a variety of ways, including a ‘live-chat’ where health and care workers can, in confidence, talk to expert clinicians about any personal or professional challenges that are impacting on their stress, anxiety or mood. This could be new mental health symptoms or a worsening of pre-existing difficulties.

Get help quickly  

  • Web, live chat (coming soon): www.keepingwellblmk.nhs.uk
  • Call or complete an online contact form 
    • If you live in Bedfordshire: Fill in the form or phone 01234 880400
    • If you live in Luton: Fill in the form or phone 0300 555 4152
    • If you live in Milton Keynes: Fill in the form or phone 01908 725099

In a video produced for The Ambulance Service Charity, Ben describes the time when he attempted suicide and why people should always seek wellbeing support if they are struggling with their mental health.


He was already struggling with his mental health due to a tough break-up and trolls on social media who were saying nasty things about him.

But rather than admit to problems, Ben battled on until one day he took a call from the brother of a friend and colleague.

 Ben says: “Unfortunately, his brother called me whilst I was on a training course and said to me, ‘I’m really sorry but they’ve found Luke’s car.’ That’s when it was too much and I felt physically sick. I felt like I had let him down. I felt like I should have done more. That’s probably something we all feel when something like that happens.”

Rather than allow himself time to grieve, Ben took just one day off before coming back into work. The day after he took a call from someone threatening to commit suicide.

“After that call that’s when I hit rock bottom,” says Ben, “I kept up this front but I couldn’t keep up the front any longer and that’s when I decided that suicide was the only way.

“If it wasn’t for one of my good friends I wouldn’t be here today.”

Claire Murdoch, Chief Executive of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, which runs community and mental health services in Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire, says:

“The Keeping Well Service is designed to do just that – keep our key workers well - and offers everything from help with sleeping to more intensive assessment and treatment to deal with the aftermath of your experiences, whether you are experiencing new symptoms or a worsening of pre-existing difficulties; we are here."

Ben says: “I am suffering from mental health. Now I’m not quite there yet but I’ve been receiving help for 10 months and I’m going to get there but what’s really important is that we do talk about mental health.

“It’s not embarrassing and it doesn’t make me weak. It actually makes me stronger because I can talk about it so please if you’re suffering, please get some help.”       

Time to Talk Day takes place on February 4.   

CNWL also works in partnership with West London NHS Trust to provide a Keeping Well Service for health and care workers in north west London available at

Email: keepingwell.nwl@nhs.net

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