Suicide prevention: police service comes together

The chair of Gwent Police Federation is encouraging members who are struggling with their mental health to seek support.

Steve Thorpe says “it’s okay to not be okay” and that the Federation is there to help members.

Steve’s comments came as he welcomed a new joint strategy to reduce the number of deaths by suicide in policing.

A new consensus statement, agreed by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), College of Policing (CoP), Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), Home Office, UNISON and Police Superintendents’ Association, sets out the police service’s commitment to suicide prevention.

Steve said: “The nature of the job means our members face challenging and pressurised situations every day.

“And over the last two years they’ve had the added pressure of policing the pandemic, keeping the public safe, and coping with the stresses that Covid-19 has inflicted on everyone.

“We need to do everything we can to support our members and their mental health – we’ve come a long way but we know there’s still work to do.

“The new consensus represents a really welcome and important step forward in supporting our members and tackling suicide prevention. It’s vital we work together to continue to change attitudes towards mental health and to support our members and their families who need it.”

In a message to members, he said: “It’s okay not to be okay. There’s help there. We’re here to help you and to help you access support if you need it.”

Gwent Police Federation has welcomed the statement on suicide prevention

The consensus statement was developed by Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service (NPWS), which worked with the UK Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England) to learn from the ambulance service’s approach to suicide prevention and provide guidance for policing.

The Federation’s national vice-chair Ché Donald said: “While the national consensus statement represents a welcome first step in helping to tackle this issue, it’s only the beginning of a more collective approach which we hope will pay dividends in the longer run. Our combined aim is to break down the many existing barriers to help-seeking.

“As a staff association, PFEW has always taken a pro-active approach to the issues around mental health support for colleagues. However, we fully recognise there is a lot more we can all do, both as organisations and as individuals involved in policing.

“Only by working together within the service can we help to transform attitudes, and increase the confidence of those who might otherwise shun the existing support services available for depression and mental illness.

“This means confining some attitudes and language to the past, ensuring colleagues are protected from burn-out because of work demands, and providing effective health screening and better support for those in high stress roles. 

“It’s crucial the service offers the very best care to colleagues and their family members, and that lessons are learnt from every single tragedy, so others don’t similarly suffer in the future.”

What will happen now the consensus has been agreed and published?

The Officer & Staff Safety Review (OSSR) proposal to improve the way data is recorded on police officer and staff death, serious injury and suicide has been agreed and will be progressed.

The NPWS has funded and commissioned a toolkit working closely with the Samaritans, given their expertise in this area. The toolkit will be made available in Spring 2022 to all forces and will also be accessible via the Oscar Kilo website.

Reference to this toolkit will be included in the NPWS Blue Light Wellbeing Framework, which is completed annually by every force and is requested by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.

More information on the consensus statement.