14 May 2021
“As a police officer people look up to you to take control but what happens when you can’t even control yourself?” says Derbyshire PC Mick Bailey, who has shared his experience of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Mick, who joined Derbyshire Constabulary in 2003 and has spent the past nine years working in Uniform Task Force, says it was in 2019 when his life got turned upside down.
Reflecting on the past decade, the 51-year-old explains that he went from being a confident and active extrovert to somebody who struggled to even step foot in a supermarket.
“All of a sudden, it was as if everything came down on me,” continues Mick, who was then signed off work for six months.
“I worked on a lot of missing people cases, body recoveries and murder scene searches. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t me discovering a body that did this to me, it was the ongoing pressures of the job.
“The only way I can describe it is as if you’re a bucket that’s filling up, the taps turned on and it can’t stop. Once it’s full, it’s too heavy to empty.”
Although Mick was put on sick leave, it was not until he was five months into being off work and was reading the autobiography of Jason Fox, from TV’s ‘SAS Who Dares Wins’, that he began to realise that he was experiencing signs of PTSD.
“I was halfway through the book and he started describing the PTSD symptoms he had, like claustrophobia, experiencing flashbacks and panic attacks. I suddenly started to recognise myself in him,” Mick explains.
After going to see his doctor, Mick was then referred to the local psychiatric department in Derbyshire, where they officially diagnosed him with PTSD.
“I didn’t really understand it at first,” he says, adding: “I thought it was something people got when they’d been in a war zone.
“It was like a weight off my shoulders being given some sort of diagnosis.”
Mick’s wife, who had noticed a huge change in her husband’s character, started to research organisations that could support both him and her.
“She soon came across Gary Hayes and PTSD999, a non-for-profit organisation that helps police officers and other emergency workers who are suffering with their mental health,” Mick says.
“When I first spoke to Gary, it was like speaking to my best mate. He spent time talking to me and speaking to my wife. I ended up having a full-blown conversation about how I was feeling with a total stranger.”
Mick says the support from Gary has continued, whether it be through phone calls or texting when he needs it.
“Just knowing somebody is there makes all the difference,” he adds, “He is very empathetic.”
He also began to receive counselling sessions, which specialised in police trauma.
“I think the quick solution is often just having medication, whether that be prescribed tablets or self-medicating through alcohol,” he said.
“Touch wood, I’ve been able to get to where I am now without that.”
Mick says talking about his mental health has made him realise that a lot of his colleagues are suffering in silence.
“It’s been a tough ride these past 15 months and it still is difficult. This time last year, I wouldn’t be able to talk about it without crying my eyes out,” says Mick, who made a gradual return back to work following his diagnosis.
“Even putting my uniform back on was hard. If I hadn’t received the support I did, I’d hate to think where I could’ve been.
“The reality is people need to speak to somebody who understands them. It’s the understanding that makes such a huge difference, it enables that bucket of pressure to be emptied.
“I would encourage anybody who is struggling to speak out. Talk about how you’re feeling and hopefully you’ll receive the right help.”