26/09/2018

Force recognised for opening up on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Cleveland Police’s work to support colleagues struggling with their mental health, including issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), has been recognised nationally.

Inspector Phil Spencer, who is based at Cleveland Police’s Kirkleatham HQ, has been shortlisted for the ‘Diversity Champion Award’ in the ‘Inclusive Companies Award 2018’.

The awards shortlist has been announced as BBC drama The Bodyguard’ has won praise for its fictional depiction of a police officer dealing with PTSD.

Indeed, it was helping colleagues struggling from this condition and work-related stress which made Inspector Spencer committed to launching the ‘Blue Light Programme’ in Cleveland.

Designed by charity MIND, the Blue Light Programme was set up in response to the fact that emergency services workers are more likely to suffer from poor mental health. It aims to reduce the stigma traditionally associated with these problems and to encourage people to seek help.

Over the past 18 months Insp Spencer has worked to deliver the Blue Light Programme to police officers and staff in Cleveland. This has included setting up a network of 65 Blue Light Champions who provide peer support and signposting to their colleagues.

The Force has also held its first mental health conference and a number of events to raise both awareness and cash for MIND. An anti-stigma campaign called ‘Blue on the Loo’, where posters with helpful information on mental health were stuck up inside work toilets, was recognised as innovative.

Insp Spencer said: “As police officers we are perceived to be indestructible, wear an invisible shield and cope with everything that is thrown at us.

“In the past it was perceived that we haven’t got it in us – or the time – to get upset, sad, anxious, stressed, depressed or have PTSD.

“Yet when I became a Welfare Officer at work I dealt with two colleagues who were suffering from severe stress and PTSD. It was one of the hardest years of my career as I saw two people, who were both fantastic officers, disintegrate in front of me. I was angered and frustrated with my lack of knowledge around mental health and how to truly help people who were in need.”

Insp Spencer says when he heard about the national Blue Light Programme he was determined to be involved.

He said: “The programme recognises that police officers and other emergency services staff are more likely to have mental health issues than the general workforce, due to the traumatic incidents that they attend.

“For the last year and a half I have been embedding the Blue Light programme across Cleveland.

“We now have a strong network of 65 Blue Light Champions who are there to help, support and advise their colleagues and can signpost them in the right direction.

“My name is on the nomination but I’m representing all the Champions and those who have backed this work at Cleveland Police, I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Insp Spencer will find out whether he is the national winner at the awards ceremony in Manchester on November 15 2018.

You can find out more about the Blue Light Programme at https://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/campaigns/bluelight/

To find out more about the awards visit: http://www.inclusivecompanies.co.uk/awards/