9 May 2022
To mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, our Wellbeing Secretary Belinda Goodwin highlights what more needs to be done by forces to ensure the mental health and wellbeing of colleagues is better looked after.
As Mental Health Awareness Week comes back around, it is important to consider how the focus on policing has shifted and changed over the past few years. To see improvements for officers in terms of support and management of their mental health, it is imperative we consider proactive help and ensure officer wellbeing is at the forefront of the conversation.
“It is imperative police forces become more proactive with their support by stepping in to help officers who are facing difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing.”
Most members know where to go for help once they reach breaking point, but that is the issue. Looking at the current welfare landscape for officers suffering with their mental health, there are many resources available - but we must get better when it comes to proactive support and prevention.
By doing something before an officer suffers a breakdown or reaches a critical stage we can protect officers and ensure they have tools at hand to enable them to proactively make changes before the damage is irreversible.
Last year, more than three quarters of officers admitted to having experienced mental health or wellbeing challenges - 74 per cent of them told us they were aware of force-provided reactive support services for mental health and wellbeing, but less than half were aware of proactive support services offered. If forces can improve signposting to all the resources available, it would go far towards helping their workforce to become resilient.
“Chief officers need to put the welfare of officers above operational needs.”
Within policing, the duty of care for our officers sits firmly with chief constables. Within their remit, they must prioritise occupational health and human resources.
If our police officers are not physically and mentally supported this reflects on the delivery of our service to members of public. It is critical that wellbeing is placed above operational needs to in fact ensure the success of operational tasks.
Mental health is such a complex area, but I feel it is important to mention PTSD.
Did you know for every 100 officers who have experienced traumatic events, one in five are likely to have PTSD ? The average person may experience trauma two or three times in their lifetime – this is heightened tenfold during an emergency worker’s career.
In contrast to this high figure, a majority of officers will not have been professionally diagnosed. PFEW would like to see more work being done to support diagnosis, such as improved PTSD training to help officers to identify peers at risk.
There are currently two excellent Police Treatment Centres, one of which features a PTSD unit – we need to see more of these initiatives.
Forces have delivered much in the way of provisions for officer's mental health and wellbeing, but we must not be complacent. There is still further work to be done around breaking down the cultural stigma surrounding mental health.
How often as working adults do we wake up in the morning with slight aches and pains? But it is the same with our mental health. It is normal to feel differently from one day to another and nothing to feel ashamed of but take action when you feel it is impacting on your day-to-day life. Seek help at the earliest opportunity, like any physical injury, the sooner you get a diagnosis or support, the sooner you can start treatment and feel improvements.
Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service, has helpfully pulled together a webpage detailing support networks available to you or others who you think may benefit from the information.
Mind also launched a new initiative last year called Blue Light Together. This is an online platform providing information and advice to help emergency responders with their mental health.
The initiative uses real life stories and tips from colleagues working in the field and practical guides for employers. Find out more below:
Police - Blue Light Together
Need help now?
If you need help for a mental health crisis or emergency, you should get immediate expert advice and assessment through the NHS urgent mental health helplines.
But if you feel your life is in immediate danger, call 999 for an ambulance or go straight to A&E.