“I remember the psychologist comparing my head to a sponge that had become saturated due to so many years of trauma. And how one day, it had all got too much and everything started to spill out - I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
A police officer has told how on their darkest day, they left a suicide note for their family as they planned to take their own life. And here they are, five years later, bravely sharing their story as part of Mental Health Awareness Week (15-21 May).
The Dyfed Powys Federation member, who has chosen to remain anonymous, says that spending decades in the Force led to them feeling ‘emotionless’.
“Who helps the helper?” they said, adding: “It’s not normal to see the things we see, we’re still all human.
“I remember I’d attended some horrific jobs, all pretty close together - one of which was a colleague who had committed suicide, and we were first on the scene.
“As a police officer, you’re expected to wear this mask, an armour. I felt embarrassed talking about how I was feeling. During my first ever counselling session, I spent 45 minutes crying - I was so ashamed, I didn’t ever go back.
“I was totally isolated, and that’s when I crumbled.”
Five-and-a-half-years ago, they wrote a note to their family, saying goodbye. They walked upstairs to the attic and were just moments away from ending it all.
They said: “Something stopped me that day. I don’t want to talk about it, but that something saved my life.”
They then chose to reach out to their parents, who encouraged them to seek medical support.
A diagnoses of complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression followed, which led to them being signed off work for several months and prescribed medication.
“All I ever wanted to be was a police officer. It was my dream but at that point, I could never imagine returning to the Force,” they added.
“But I had a phenomenal support network around me. My partner, my children, they have seen me hit rock bottom. They are all amazing.
“My colleagues, my line managers and the Federation. I’ll be forever grateful to them all. I genuinely can’t thank them enough for helping me get back to work and where I am now.”
They explained how it has taken a long time, learning to get to where they are today, with each day ‘still a battle’.
“It’s been a long, hard process. I think people - me included - think that you get medication and overnight, you’ll feel better, but that’s not how it works. It’s horrible, there’s no quick fix solution,” they said.
“But I understand a lot better now than I used to. I constantly used to think, why me? Why am I feeling like this? When so many of my colleagues see the same things as me, yet, they’re OK.
“And now I’m trying to normalise it. There’s still a huge stigma surrounding mental health - I know some of my colleagues look and treat me differently now, after knowing what I went through.”
They said they know not everyone is that lucky to have the same support around them, that they did.
“It makes me sad to think others don’t have the people around them I did, and I can see why police officers feel they want to take their own life.
“And as much as I really don’t like the phrase, ‘it’s OK not to be OK’, in this case, it really is.
“I know how much of a toll mental health can have on you. I feel exhausted, I’ve never been so tired. But if by sharing my experience I can help just one person, it will make talking about it worth it.”
If you are struggling with your mental health, then please speak to your line manager or the Police Federation.