New joined up approach to mental health

Gwent Police Federation wellbeing lead Danielle Threader has welcomed a pledge by police chiefs to ensure officers’ mental health is a priority for the service.

Danielle hopes the commitment to a uniform set of standards to support the mental health of police officers will help change attitudes within the service – and wider society.

She was speaking after The Royal Foundation’s Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium, which saw 200 leaders from across police, fire, ambulance, and search and rescue from the four nations come together for the first time to address the mental health of their workforces. The Duke of Cambridge addressed the event.

National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) chair Martin Hewitt signed the Mental Health at Work Commitment endorsing six standards, including declaring mental health is, and will remain, a strategic priority, and encouraging forces to promote an open culture around mental health.

Danielle said: “The pandemic has made police officers’ roles even more demanding and there are mental health consequences to that. We welcome this pledge by police chiefs to ensuring our members’ mental health is and will continue to be a priority.

“It’s an important first step in ensuring our members can be properly protected. For too long people have suffered in silence. I hope the commitment of our blue light services will send out a message that it’s okay to talk about our mental health, not just in the emergenc services but in our communities as well.

“I hope it breaks down those taboos and stigmas around mental health and makes it easier for our members to seek the help and support they deserve.”

The symposium saw the launch of a Blue Light Together package of mental health support for the emergency services, developed by The Royal Foundation and other partner organisations.

Through a new Blue Light Together website from mental health charity Mind, information and advice to help emergency responders with their mental health has been shared, including real life stories and tips from colleagues working in the field and guides for employers so they can support their teams with their wellbeing.

Working in partnership with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), The Royal Foundation is also funding the creation of a directory of therapists who have experience of specialising in addressing the complex mental health needs of emergency responders.

The event included a live panel session involving senior emergency services leaders who spoke about their personal experiences with mental health struggles, alongside speeches by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Mind’s CEO Paul Farmer and The Duke of Cambridge.

National Federation chair John Apter, who attended the event, said: “Policing and other emergency services have talked a lot about how they are supporting the mental health of their workforce for a number of years, and there have been some improvements.

“The pledge that has been agreed to by the NPCC is a massive step forward, but chiefs have got to make sure it delivers something tangible as too many colleagues are being failed on daily basis; I have spoken to officers who are truly broken, and on many occasions this was completely avoidable.

“Rather than continuing to stick plasters over gaping wounds, it is key the service focuses on prevention.

“In policing, we cannot get away from attending traumatic incidents, but we can do more to ensure there is better support for them and their families, and better training in place for supervisors and managers so they can recognise and address the issues.”

Find information, ideas and support to help look after your mental health at Blue Light Together.