Look after your mental health: support is available

Dyfed Powys Police Federation wellbeing lead Dai Gaskins says it’s more important than ever for members to look after their mental health.

Now Dai is encouraging members who are suffering with their mental health and wellbeing to “take that step” and seek support.

His comments follow 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.

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.

Dai welcomed the pledge and hopes it will lead to more officers reaching out for help and support.

“It’s more important than ever that we look after our mental as well as our physical health,” he said.

“Policing is a unique job and officers can experience really difficult situations. It’s been even more challenging over the last two years because of the pandemic, which will have thrown up other issues away from work as well.

“This pledge by police chiefs alongside a new package of support measures is a welcome step in supporting our members and breaking down those barriers that prevent them reaching out.

“So my message is if you are struggling with your mental health then take that step. The help and support you need is there for you.”

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 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.