Mental Health Awareness Week: proactive support needed

Gwent Police Federation chair Steve Thorpe has joined calls for improvements to mental health support for officers and said a more proactive approach was needed to ensure members were properly looked after.

Speaking during Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, Steve said officer wellbeing was now being taken more seriously but there was still much work to do when it came to proactive support and prevention.

He said: “The mental health and wellbeing of our members has always been our top priority and real progress has been made over the past few years.

“I think the pandemic showed everyone how serious the issues surrounding mental health had become and thankfully there seems to be much less of a stigma attached to it nowadays so people are more willing to open up and talk about their feelings.

“But we still have a long way to go and it is important that we become more proactive in the way we deal with officer wellbeing because it is massive issue within policing.

“Our members are well aware of the resources available to them should they reach breaking point but we need to see action taken before they get to that stage and to try to prevent it from happening in the first place.

“The service we offer to the public will suffer if we are unable to provide the necessary physical and mental support to our police officers so their wellbeing should really be the top priority for the Force.”

More than three quarters of officers across England and Wales admitted to having experienced mental health or wellbeing challenges last year but while most said they were aware of reactive support services less than half knew about proactive support services.

Steve said: “It is so important to make sure officers are aware of every resource and toolkit available to them.”

Police Federation national wellbeing secretary Belinda Goodwin said forces had delivered much in the way of provisions for officers’ mental health and wellbeing in recent years but warned against complacency.

She said: “There is still further work to be done around breaking down the cultural stigma surrounding mental health.

“How often as working adults do we wake up in the morning with slight aches and pains? But it is the same with our mental health.

“It is normal to feel differently from one day to another and nothing to feel ashamed of but take action when you feel it is impacting on your day-to-day life.

“Seek help at the earliest opportunity, like any physical injury, the sooner you get a diagnosis or support, the sooner you can start treatment and feel improvements.”

The National Police Wellbeing Service Oscar Kilo has created a webpage detailing support networks and mental health charity Mind has an online platform called Blue Light Together which provides information and advice to help emergency responders with their mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Week, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, runs until Sunday 15 May.

 

Read a Mental Health Awareness Week blog from the national Federation wellbeing lead Belinda Goodwin.