10 May 2021
PFEW Wellbeing Chair Hayley Aley marks Mental Health Awareness Week by focusing on the toll of the Covid-19 pandemic. She examines what needs to be done as we come out of the other side.
Today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week – the second to come around during the Covid-19 pandemic. Reflecting on one year ago today, it is extraordinary to see how far we have come as a service and how colleagues adapted exceptionally well in extraordinary times.
But the pandemic has undoubtedly taken its toll on the mental health of officers. A majority of members who participated in our Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey admitted they faced difficulties over the past year, which were exacerbated by the challenges of the job.
At the end of the day, officers are mums and dads, sons and daughters. Every day, they have worried about bringing the virus home to loved ones and many have, sadly, lost someone close to them.
Moving forwards, it is vital that forces address the mental health fallout from the pandemic and provide much-needed support.
As police officers we deal with trauma, danger and grief day in, day out. We see the very worst of humanity - but are expected to leave it behind at the end of a shift, then return to ‘normal’ life.
It’s important for officers to feel comfortable about speaking out about the difficulties they are facing with mental health and wellbeing.
There is still a stigma attached to mental illness in policing - but we must change this. Nobody should feel like they have to hide away when there’s an issue, or bottle things up until they are broken.
At the Federation, our goal is that when you join the service, the level of wellbeing you are at on day one should mirror that on the day you leave. Wouldn’t it be great if every organisation could say, hand on heart, that they looked after you through the years because they considered their workforce as their most important asset?
I think we are making progress, and more of my colleagues are seeking help. But we still have a long way to go. The Federation will continue to work with key decision makers and have regular discussions with Chiefs to ensure our members, who deserve the very best support and protection, are getting the best help when they need it.
Remember, PFEW’s Welfare Support Programme is here to assist you and provides independent and confidential support to members and access to fully trained and accredited professionals.
If you want to talk to someone right away about your mental health, here is a list of organisations you can call for immediate help.