10 October 2019
Today is World Mental Health Day, so I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the past year – a year where there has been a number of colleagues tragically taking their own lives.
Suicide is an incredibly sensitive topic, but one we must still talk about no matter how difficult it is alongside mental health struggles – for far too many colleagues suffer in silence.
I accept when somebody makes that heart-breaking choice to take their own life, nobody can understand what they are going through other than them. I know it’s rarely as simple as just one work-related matter or one home-related matter - it is a culmination of things creating a perfect storm.
But we’re all in this together. We all understand how it feels during a difficult time on the job and have seen things which are unimaginable, painful and traumatic. Talking about our mental health should no longer a taboo and I would encourage my colleagues to find the courage to take some time to tell somebody what they’re going through. But we can also do more to look out for one another.
A colleague will know when a teammate is not themselves, or if they have been deployed to one too many traumatic incidences or is something really painful going on at home. We need to make sure when we see colleagues are struggling, we know how to help.
Wellbeing can be many things and people’s needs can be very complex - one size does not fit all - but what’s important is if officers want help and support, they know where to get it.
Sadly, far too many chiefs are still not taking this issue seriously enough despite them repeatedly saying their officers are their most valuable asset. But there is light on the horizon.
More and more research is being done around PTSD within the service to better understand the extent of the issue, the Government has pledged to take forward our recommendation of a Police Covenant to give officers access to better healthcare, whilst we’re looking to improve our Welfare Support Programme to include counselling.
Our research team is also collecting data around police suicides because a majority of forces do not record this information. We hope we can make a difference in the future by analysing this data and working alongside chiefs to see what more can be done to help colleagues going forward.
The future is looking brighter, and change will happen- but we should all stop for a moment and take the time to talk.
The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email email@example.com.
If you need access to our Welfare Support Programme, contact must be made initially through your local Federation Branch, who will be able to determine if the programme is right for you, register you, and suggest other possible support options for you. Find your local Branch here.