Mental Health Awareness Week (13 – 19 May) is being marked by Bedfordshire Police with series of events for staff and officers to highlight the amount of support that is available to them.
Emergency service personnel not only encounter vulnerable people on an almost daily basis, but, according to the mental health charity Mind, are more likely to experience stress, low mood or poor mental health whilst at work themselves.
Research shows they are less likely to seek support or have time off sick than those in other professions.
During Mental Health Awareness Week, the force will be holding a number of events for officers and staff to highlight the breadth of support that is available. From cinema sessions and open discussions, informal tea and chat, to talks on mindfulness and how to achieve better sleep.
Part of the project has been developed in collaboration with East London NHS Foundation Trust from a ‘people first’ perspective and the aim is to embed a culture where individuals feel able to openly discuss mental health issues and feel equipped with the tools to looks after themselves and others.
It was designed by two of the Trust’s People Participation leads, Jon Southam and Millie Smith, and CBT therapist Claire Hill in partnership with service users from Luton and Bedfordshire Police colleagues Nicky Burns and Sgt Ben Dimmock, the force mental health champion.
The programme covers conditions including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“The police do an amazing job, often in hugely difficult circumstances,” said Jon Southam, the Trust’s project lead and People Participation lead for Luton.
“The hope is through this programme we can equip officers with their own metaphorical duty belt which has all of the tools needed to maintain good mental health and to support fellow officers.”
Superintendent Jaki Whittred, the force lead for mental health, says: “We all need to be more open about our mental health, to ensure the stigma and myths surrounding it are dispelled.
“The force has invested a lot into a support network for our staff and officers that encompasses every aspect of mental health, such as tailored trauma management, a force-wide network of wellbeing champions, and even a dedicated phone app that discusses symptoms of the most common mental issues a person can face with signposting to 24-hour support.
“Mental health is everyone’s business, and this week we will be getting together to remind everyone that it’s OK not to be OK, and to start conversations that can change, or even save lives.”