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Policing is what it is because of its people – that’s something we must protect.”

As part of International Stress Awareness Week, we look at the psychological impact of policing and the services available to support officers.
 The Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) has promoted the importance of workforce wellbeing for many years, and alongside its work exploring the impact of demand on the resilience of members and the wider workforce, its national officers serve on boards, as trustees and as ambassadors for a range of police organisations and charities which focus on wellbeing support and physical or psychological rehabilitation.
 Figures released in 2019 from Police Care UK, a charity for which PSA President, Paul Griffiths is a trustee, showed that 1 in 5 police officers were suffering from PTSD, and a survey from the National Police Wellbeing Service, for which Paul sits on the Board, showed that 45% of police officers had less than 6 hours regular sleep. It also showed that 67% of officers and 50% of staff reported feeling symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
 The PSA’s own personal resilience survey in 2019, showed that 63% of members felt stress, low mood or anxiety, or mental health difficulties within the previous 12 months. 90% of these attributed it to work.
 National Secretary Dan Murphy has been a trustee for Police Treatment Centres (PTC) for two years. The Charity provides two centres where serving and retired police officers can receive treatment following an illness or injury, with the aim of assisting their return to better health. The centres are St Andrews, in Harrogate, and Castlebrae in Perthshire. The Charity also offers a remote physiotherapy service.
 Almost 4000 serving and retired officers attend the treatment centres each year. Many seek support with stress-related conditions or anxiety and depression as part of its Psychological Wellbeing Programme. In recognition of growing demand for more wellbeing support within the Police Service, PTC is building two new Wellbeing Wings at its Harrogate Centre, which will significantly improve and expand both its wellbeing provision and real estate. The new wings which will include an extra 20 bedrooms will be completed in April 2021.  The PTC is also in the process of developing a new wellbeing programme that will allow the charity to treat officers who are suffering from deeper and more complex wellbeing and mental health issues, and the charity expects to roll out the first new pilot programmes for this in late 2021.

Dan says: “As a serving officer, I was always aware of Flint House, PTC and the Ben Fund but never had a need to use their services.  I knew people who had, and the feedback was always extremely positive. The services provided are simply excellent and key to putting a lot of people back on the road to recovery.
 “There has always been a need for support for the psychological impact of policing, but there is definitely more of a recognition around the impact of this now, and of the huge number of officers being affected. 
 “Historically, we might have been more concerned about potential ‘injuries’ to officers following incidents on the road or during operational response work, now we need to be equally concerned about the psychological ‘injury’ of excessive demand. PTC has excellent support services in place to deal with this and its important that it receives the financial support it needs, but also that officers are aware that this is available for them.”
 Vice President Ian Wylie is a trustee for Flint House and is currently serving as interim Chair of Trustees, leading work to support the charity in achieving its vision.

The charity, which is now more than 130 years old, has its centre based in Goring-on-Thames and has a skilled team of physiotherapists, mental health practitioners and registered nurses, who every year assist over 3300 officers in getting back to full operational health. 
 Ian explains; “Flint House has traditionally been known as ‘policing’s best kept secret’.  I want to help change this, so it becomes our service’s worst kept secret.  Every officer needs to know about it, what it can do, and how they can subscribe to its services for a very small amount of money.
 “Having been fortunate enough not to require its services during my operational career, I was stunned by the extent of its offering when I took on my role as a trustee. 
 “We’re acutely aware of the growing need to support officers who are struggling with the psychological impact of their work, evidenced by the recent reports we have seen nationally and Flint House has introduced a bespoke mental health rehabilitation centre for just this reason.” 
Dan and Ian provide evidence and insight from their experience in policing, and both work to support the charities in growing and developing services in the future.

Dan continues: “Our place with these charities is focused purely on the needs of the organisation, but as a staff association, we have an important role to play in communicating feedback from the Service through one voice, and going back to the service and our members where their views are needed.
 “We have a responsibility to help increase awareness of the excellent services available to our teams, but we’d also encourage each force and the wider service to promote the additional help that can make a real difference to anyone suffering.
 “We’re seeing a huge intake of new officers come into the Service over the next couple of years, and it would be really positive to ensure they understand the value of having access to the charities right from the start of their journey. 
 “New officers will have a different career experience to those who have served for 20 or 30 years, with different pressures being faced – we need the support services that will respond.”
 Ian concludes: “Our Service benefits from three amazing charities that provide incredible rehabilitation and recovery support. As senior leaders, it’s incumbent on us to take a key role in building these, supporting their development, and raising awareness across our teams.
 “Together, our national team is embedded within a range of organisations and charities that place wellbeing at the core of our Service and this is something we’re very proud of.  Policing is what it is because of its people – that’s something we must protect.”