The Gratitude Games launches to support mental health of emergency service and NHS workers

A new multi-sports event – the Gratitude Games – will be hosted by Manchester and Salford next year for over 20,000 emergency responders and their families


The Gratitude Games, a new sporting event to support the mental health of emergency service and NHS workers, is today calling on the British public and businesses to donate to their fundraising appeal.

One in four (27%) emergency service workers have considered ending their lives due to stress and other factors and this has only been amplified by the pandemic, with 69% reporting that their mental health has worsened since the start of Covid-19.


The first Gratitude Games will be hosted by the cities of Manchester and Salford from 27t April–29 May 2022 at leading venues, including the iconic Etihad campus. The Games will unite over 20,000 emergency responders and their families, across 20 different sports. From the whole of the NHS and the Fire and Rescue Service to the RNLI and Cave Rescue, workers from 17 different emergency services will be able to take part. The event will be open to all sporting abilities, and the triathlon and road running events (including a 5k and 10k), will also be open to the public.

The funds raised will be deployed through four existing specialist organisations – Police Care UK, The Fire Fighters Charity, The Ambulance Staff Charity and Duty to Care (NHS) – who collectively support all emergency responders to improve their mental health.

The Gratitude Games aims to generate £10 million in funding to support emergency responders’ mental health over the next five years.

“In my 18 years as a firefighter, I have seen at first-hand the devastating impact that working on the front line can have on your mental health”

The concept of the games is the brainchild of serving Buckinghamshire firefighter Mike Downard and sports industry veteran Simon Rider, who founded the charity UK Emergency Services Giving (UKESG) to help ensure every emergency responder has access to the tailored mental health support they need.

The expectations and demands placed on our emergency services and NHS workers are higher than ever. Whether caring for a patient in an ICU, telling someone that their loved one has died or dealing with the aftermath of a car crash, our Emergency Responders witness more trauma on a daily basis than most of us do in a lifetime. It has been estimated that whilst most ordinary people will encounter serious trauma no more than three or four times in their life – for police officers it is 400-600 times.

Commenting on the issues that drove him to develop the Gratitude Games as the key fundraising platform for UKESG, Mike said: “In my 18 years as a firefighter, I have seen at first-hand the devastating impact that working on the front line can have on your mental health. You can be dealing with multiple traumatic events on a daily basis and that can really take its toll.

“The pandemic has affected the mental health of many, but especially those of us in the emergency services – so there is an urgent need to make sure the specialist support is readily available. To help make this a reality, we are calling upon the British public and businesses to get behind the Gratitude Games – by donating to the fundraising appeal and sharing the message of the Games to friends and family.”

British Rowing CEO Andy Parkinson said: “British Rowing is delighted to back the launch of the Gratitude Games to help raise funds to support the mental health of all our wonderful emergency service and NHS workers. Putting themselves on the line and helping others in their time of need is a daily part of their job and something we appreciate more than ever after the last 18 months during the global pandemic.

“We look forward to celebrating their contributions and selfless dedication at the inaugural Gratitude Games in Manchester next year.”

Get involved

You can donate to the fundraising appeal here.

To find out more and register your interest click here.

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