Learning about mental health and wellbeing

17 May 2017

Police officers need to look after themselves and not be afraid to speak up about mental health, a recurring topic of this year's conference in Birmingham.

Around 100 delegates attended a session led by Graham Richens from Learning and Development Federation HQ.  As a former Met officer, Mr Richens suffered mental illness himself and illustrated how so many factors contributed to it, including seeing "too many" colleagues injured and even killed in the line of duty.

During the session, delegates were invited to share their experiences of mental health.  “Around 80% of officers have suffered mental ill health,” Mr Richens explained. “One in four experience it every year.

“We see things that the public are ordinarily protected from. We experience extremes.  But police officers feel isolated and alone. We need to protect ourselves – we need to talk about it and be able to identify both in ourselves and our colleagues when things aren’t right.”

The wide-ranging levels of trauma support were explained along with the need for Federation reps to undertake a course on mental health first aid.  The Police Federation aims to raise awareness, promote mental health wellbeing, reduce untreated illness, ensure early detection, eliminate stigma and discrimination, prevent deterioration, support and promote recovery and increase wellbeing among its members.

Mr Richens added: “We need to be there for each other, listen to each other, talk to each other - accept responses unconditionally, give care and support and be compassionate.  We need to understand stressors and signs of mental illness, help and support each other and give and receive care to each other.”

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