9 March 2022
Police forces must be more proactive by stepping in to help to officers who are facing difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing.
Police Federation of England and Wales’ Wellbeing Secretary Belinda Goodwin emphasised this important message to delegates as she delivered an engaging presentation at the Emergency Service Wellbeing Conference yesterday (8 March).
She said: “Most members know where to go once they are broken, but that’s the issue. Looking at the welfare landscape at the moment, there are a lot of resources officers can tap into and go to when they need help - but we must get better when it comes to prevention.
“It’s doing something before an officer breaks, and before they reach a critical stage.”
According to our Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey, 74 per cent of officers were aware of force-provided reactive support services for mental health and wellbeing.
Less than half were aware of proactive support services offered.
Belinda also stressed the importance of signposting proactive support services, rather than just highlighting reactive ones to ensure officers know where they can access resources.
For every 100 officers who have experienced traumatic events, one in five are likely to have PTSD however, many will not have been professionally diagnosed.
Belinda highlighted the need for improved PTSD training to identify peers at risk whilst acknowledging spotting the symptoms can be challenging.
“The average person may experience trauma two or three times in their lifetime – this is tenfold during an emergency worker’s career.
“PTSD is inherently difficult to diagnose and this is one of the barriers we have found which means it’s a barrier to treatment and we would like to see more work being done around this issue.
“We have Police Treatment Centres and the one in Harrogate has just opened a PTSD unit which is absolutely fantastic – but we need to see more of these initiatives so PTSD within our officers can be diagnosed.”
Forces have come a long way in terms of mental health provisions, but there is still more work to be done around breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health.
“How many times do we wake up in the morning with slight aches and pains? But it’s the same with our mental health and it’s normal to feel differently from one day to another. That is nothing to be ashamed of.
“If your mental health is impacting on your wellbeing and day-to-day life, you must seek help at the earliest opportunity. Like any physical injury, the sooner you get it diagnosed, the sooner you can start treatment.”
The pandemic has put strain on many mental health services which is having a “massive impact” on our members, according to Belinda who also cited disparities in the level of care provided by forces.
The Federation has been helping officers via its Welfare Support Programme being delivered by Defence Medical Welfare Service.
So far, we have assisted at least 400 officers, equating to 32 cases a month.
“Within policing, the duty of care for our officers sits firmly with chief constables. With that in mind they need to ensure occupational health and human resources are fit for purpose,” Belinda added.
“As a Federation we have recognised and identified the wellbeing of our police officers should be at the forefront of 21st century policing. It is about putting officers first as opposed to operational needs.
“If our police officers are not physically and mentally supported this reflects on the delivery of our service to members of public," she concluded.