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West Midlands Police Federation

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Force urged to support mental health first aid training

11 March 2020


All supervisors and line managers should attend a mental health first aid course to help them identify signs that officers and staff are struggling, says West Midlands Police Federation secretary Steve Grange.

Steve has recently attended a three-day Federation course covering mental health first aid and says it would be valuable for anyone in a front-line supervisory role to put themselves forward for similar training.

All new Federation workplace representatives have a half-day input on mental health as part of their initial reps’ course and Steve is encouraging other reps to attend the three-day course but he also wants the Force to provide similar training for officers and staff.

“I believe it would be worth the Force investing in this training; mental health is just as important as physical health. It really would be an investment in officers and staff but could actually lead to cost-savings in the longer-term,” says Steve.

“Current sickness levels mean we have 600 people off on any given day, with 30 per cent of those reporting stress or mental ill-health compared to 17 per cent five years ago. In cash terms, the Force is paying out around £3 million a month in wages to people who are not actually at work. If more could be done to train supervisors to see the signs of stress and mental ill-health, then rather than people having no alternative but to take time out, we could put support in place at an earlier stage and prevent them reaching that breaking point.”

Steve says the demands of policing, coupled with the effects of the Government’s cuts programme leaving forces trying to do more with less, have certainly had an impact on officers’ mental health and general wellbeing.

But he says reduced funding has also led to increased use of single-crewing with officers who are double-crewed having been able to discuss traumatic incidents and support each other, for example. He also cites the closure of canteens and police bars and an inability to take refs together as factors that have limited officers’ opportunities to get together, talk about the demands of their shift and de-stress.

Read more in our April/May magazine which will be circulated from the end of March.

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