We need those in the emergency services to be more aware of their own mental health

Angela Gentry

Chief Inspector, London Metropolitan Police

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This year we’re working with Mind’s Blue Light programme to support the mental health of the UK’s emergency services, and to share stories of their experiences during the pandemic.

Until you experience working in the police force​Managing stress and anxiety (Police) PDF Mind have created this PDF booklet to explore some of the causes of stress and anxiety for the police force, and have brought together some tips to help you cope better at work.Free By: Mind View resource yourself, it can be very hard to really understand the impact of a job that deals with such emotional life events. With demanding shifts and long tours of duty, it can be exhausting and isolating. Add to that the amount of violence and death you deal with day in and day out, and how many times your adrenaline is triggered and experience fight or flight, it is no wonder we tend to exist in a hyper vigilant state and struggle to deal with traumatic experiences​Self support techniques after a traumatic incident PDF Healthy processing of traumatic incidents is essential in policing to reset your stress response, to file events as past, and to move on to the next job. This guide can help.Free By: Police Dependants’ Trust View resource in our personal lives.

These two events seem to tip me over the edge

I joined the police when I was 20 and had a very steep learning curve. I married and divorced young, and without really realising it was quite hardened by all the events both at work and personally. I then had a late termination and lost my dad​Dealing with death and grief: Dying Matters PDF COVID-19 is causing many people to die before their time. This can be very distressing for those who work with vulnerable people, who not only may feel bereaved themselves but may also have to support patients' friends and family. This guide can help.Free By: Hospice UK / Dying Matters View resource shortly after. These two events seem to tip me over the edge of what I could manage mentally and I felt quite numb.

A woman thinks while looking out of the window.

It was a very difficult couple of years where despite a loving family, great colleagues and a good social life I felt quite alone and my whole inside felt empty and disconnected. Up until that point I had always thought it was a case of pulling yourself together but I needed to grieve and feel everything – there was no longer an option to box it up and put it away or laugh it off. It was a very difficult time, but has given me far more empathy for others and the challenges of mental health in general. My mental health was certainly something I hadn’t even acknowledged up until that point.

I was fortunate that I had work to keep my behaviour constructive

I buried myself in work and successfully attained my Sergeants at this time. I was fortunate that I had work to keep my behaviour constructive and maintain a routine, and I was very grateful for two of my line managers that really made a difference. They visited me whilst I was off from work sick​Manager support for return to work following long-term sickness absence PDF Following the introduction of 'fit notes' to encourage those on long-term sick leave to make an early return to work, this guide focuses on the key behaviours managers need to support employees.Free By: CIPD View resource and didn’t judge me or make me feel any less valued. They were also very supportive on my return​Returning to the workplace: line manager 1:1 conversation guide PDF This PDF guide from Unilever has been designed to help line managers to start one-on-one conversations with their teams about how they are feeling about their return to work after a long period of working from home or furlough.Free By: Unilever View resource and have again hugely shaped for me the difference we can make to each other at these difficult times.

Credit City London Police_

However, more could and should have been done – I strongly feel that mental health supervision should be mandatory for officers and confidential so that the impact of trauma and violence can be discussed and symptoms can be picked up at the early stages.

Police officers are five times more likely to suffer PTSD

At present, the awareness of the impact of dealing with such a level of trauma continually is little researched. We know police officers are five times more likely to suffer from PTSDPost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder which you may develop after being involved in, or witnessing, traumatic events. The condition was first recognised in war veterans and has been known by a variety of names, such...Find out more and yet especially in some of the most demanding roles there is still a stigma about talking about mental health. We need those in the emergency services to be much more self-aware regarding their own mental health and regular mental health checks. As officers, we have regular officer safety training to ensure we can protect ourselves physically. My vision is that one day we will have regular personal mental health safety training, to protect our mental health and give us time to diffuse.

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I am currently in a HQ role which I find hugely satisfying, with a close supportive team and boss who is genuinely driven to deliver well for the public and staff. It is a really positive and caring environment. In my role I have a lot of autonomy and have been able to orchestrate change for the good of officer wellbeing. My position also allows me to ensure a more supportive response as an organisation when staff are experiencing challenges or difficulties. I am passionate about the impact of policing on staff and my role allows me to take positive action to counter this.

It is an exciting time for wellbeing and policing

We are becoming far more aware of the need for trauma informed policing​Just B counselling and trauma phone helpline Web page If you'd like to talk to someone about what you're going through as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hospice UK have created a free phone line for frontline workers, staffed by Just B.Free By: Hospice UK / Dying Matters View resource both for the public and for the staff, so it is an exciting time for wellbeing and policing. I love my job even on the tough days and do thrive with a level of stress and enjoy the operational fast paced world that is front line policing. It’s a hugely privileged role and it has certainly hugely shaped who I am today.

If you are a leader in the police force, take time to get to know your staff, ask them in your one to ones how they manage their own mental health and if you can support them in any way. I still use Mind’s wellness action plans​Guides to wellness action plans Web page Wellness action plans are an easy way to help support your own mental health at work and that of your team members. Mind has guidance and templates to get you started, for both employees and line managers.FreeSign up to receive by e-mail By: Mind View resource so staff can take control of the conversation with me.

Credit West Midlands Police

Also start team conversations​Approaching a sensitive conversation around mental ill health PDF Every conversation a manager has with a colleague who may be experiencing mental ill health will be different. This PDF guide from Acas has tips for managers to think about when approaching such a conversation.Free By: Acas View resource about mental health and offer up what you do to help yourself to reduce stigma, encourage speakers to come and share their lived experiences which can help to break down barriers and increase understanding. Make sure you challenge unhelpful language – it sets a tone and will allow people to feel safe.

And if you are struggling personally, please talk to someone – your GP, the Samaritans​Samaritans helpline Web page The Samaritans helpline is available 24 hours a day, providing a one-to-one listening service for anyone experiencing distress.Free By: Samaritans View resource or a colleague. The most courageous thing you can do is ask for help and it will improve. It is a big step but a very important one to take to help yourself. And if you aren’t struggling, ask you colleagues if they are okay – and if they just reply “yeah good thanks”, ask them again!

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