It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (10 – 16 May 2021), and the Defence Police Federation is using the event to remind officers to come forward and talk about how they’re doing.
The extra strains of having to deal with the COVID outbreak alongside what is already a highly stressful job has added even more weight to this year’s mental health awareness campaign.
Nearly 70% of blue light emergency workers say their mental health has worsened during the pandemic, according to new stats from the Blue Light COVID Response report, meaning it’s vital the subject is broached and that support is in place for those who need it.
Defence Police Federation Chair Eamon Keating said thankfully, mental health is now becoming less of a taboo subject among frontline, and particularly firearms officers, many of whom worried coming forward might harm their careers.
“The number of emergency workers reporting a downturn in their mental health is worrying,” Eamon said.
“The pressures of the last 18 months have exacerbated what is already a stressful job – the threat to our officers wasn’t just on them; it was on their families too.
“Mental health has always been an issue in policing, but it’s now a much more understood issue, there’s still a long way to go, but it’s much more openly talked about.
“We know in a firearms environment there can be nervousness about coming forward because officers are worried about how it might impact on their jobs, but we would encourage any officer to come forward and ask for help at the earliest opportunity as we can signpost them to all sorts of different assistance and programmes.
“It’s very supportive, it’s not critical, and the earlier people come forward, the easier it can be to resolve issues and to make sure those solutions are permanent.
“So please don’t be frightened about it, nobody’s going to be chastised; talk to us, and we’ll do everything we can to help; it’s just as important, if not more so sometimes, as your physical health.”
Coming forward and sharing your mental health concerns does not necessarily mean officers will lose their firearms role, Eamon stressed, and that recovering officers can often get back to the job they had before without any stigma or issues.
“It’s not a visible, physical injury, but it’s an injury nonetheless,” Eamon said. “And our approach to it is exactly the same.
“Mental Health Awareness Week is a great chance to highlight the issue, but the support and concern for our members’ welfare is there 52 weeks of the year.
“We’ve got access to partners, programmes and routes to which we can signpost officers, so they get the help they need.
“All they need to do is ask their local Fed or Area Secretary, get in touch with us at Fed HQ or speak to Claire Batt the Force Welfare Officer.”