Mental health support for police officers must become more proactive and start to focus on prevention, according to South Wales Police Federation chair Steve Treharne.
Speaking as Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 got underway, Steve acknowledged progress had been made on issues surrounding officer wellbeing but said there were still many areas in need of improvement.
He said: “We work hard to make sure our members are kept fully aware of all the support services and networks that are available to them through the Police Federation.
“But the focus on policing has shifted and changed over the past few years and forces must now concentrate on proactive measures to bring officer wellbeing to the forefront of the conversation.
“It is important to recognise the progress that has been made on mental health in recent years and I think the issue was highlighted during the pandemic when people seemed more willing to talk about their experiences, emotions and feelings.
“But to keep moving in the right direction the focus now has to switch to proactive support and prevention.
“Our members know where to turn when they reach crisis point but it would be much better for everyone if they could access the necessary help before it gets to that stage. And if those services do already exist then they must be better publicised and promoted.”
Steve said the Force was responsible for the welfare of its officers and that failing to protect them would have a huge impact on the service.
He added: “The mental health of our police officers is key to the success of the service they deliver to their communities so it is absolutely essential that they are properly looked after and that the Force makes their wellbeing its highest priority.”
Police Federation national wellbeing secretary Belinda Goodwin said forces had delivered much in the way of provisions for officers’ mental health and wellbeing in recent years but warned against complacency.
She said: “There is still further work to be done around breaking down the cultural stigma surrounding mental health.
“How often as working adults do we wake up in the morning with slight aches and pains? But it is the same with our mental health.
“It is normal to feel differently from one day to another and nothing to feel ashamed of but take action when you feel it is impacting on your day-to-day life.
“Seek help at the earliest opportunity, like any physical injury, the sooner you get a diagnosis or support, the sooner you can start treatment and feel improvements.”
The National Police Wellbeing Service Oscar Kilo has created a webpage detailing support networks and mental health charity Mind has an online platform called Blue Light Together which provides information and advice to help emergency responders with their mental health.
Mental Health Awareness Week, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, runs until Sunday 15 May.