Police Federation

#MHAW: Service must ‘step up’ as stigma lifts on mental illness

11 May 2021

On day two of Mental Health Awareness Week, Wellbeing Chair Hayley Aley and Oscar Kilo Lead, and former chief constable, Andy Rhodes, spoke in a video about how positive it is to see more police officers speaking out about mental health - as the stigma begins to lift.

But with more members rightly seeking the help they need; forces now need to ‘step up’ and provide that support through either more funding or restructuring.

Hayley said: “Over the recent years, we have seen a huge change in terms of policing and the family ethos of looking after each other. I think it has massively improved over the last decade.

“There is a lot of work to do constantly with mental health, and I am very grateful for the fact the stigma seems to be a lot less than it was, and colleagues are more confident in speaking out about their mental health.”

Andy agreed that the stigma associated with mental illness is reducing. He added: “Once you’ve asked officers to stick their hand up, you’ve got to have the services ready. You’ve got to have the line management support there, and you’ve got to have ownership from the top of the organisation right the way through to make sure when officers do stick their hands up, they get the right support.

“Or else what happens is our officers go: ‘hold on a minute, you’ve been telling me for years to talk about my mental health, now I’m on a six-month waiting list for counselling’.

“We are supporting forces to work towards occupational health standards. We are also working with forces across the country and specialist officers from Oscar Kilo to assess where they are at with those standards, and to help them get where they need to be.

“Some of this will be a conversation within the organisation to say: ‘we need to spend a bit more money on this, or we need to change how we are structured around our services.’

“I think police officers have done exactly what we have asked of them, and they are admitting they are struggling a bit – now forces better be ready to step up and support them with the right services.”

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.

Our Welfare Support Programme is also here to assist you and provides independent and confidential support to members with access to fully trained and accredited professionals.

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