Military veteran research informs unique service for traumatised police

Immediate and round-the-clock support will be provided for officers and staff suffering with PTSD, t

Immediate and round-the-clock support will be provided for officers and staff suffering with PTSD, trauma and complex mental ill health Picture: SU ANDERSON - Credit: Su Anderson

Norfolk and Suffolk police have today announced a collaboration to provide staff and officers bespoke mental health support when needed.

The partnership with Norfolk’s Walnut Tree Health and Wellbeing Community Interest Company (CIC) includes round-the-clock support for staff and officers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma and complex mental ill health.

The forces are thought to be the country’s first to provide such a service that includes 24/7 support.

In eight months, 23 officers and staff across the counties have been referred to Walnut Tree Health and Wellbeing.

Chief executive Luke Woodley said the service was created through experience and research of trauma in military veterans, and knowledge of the diverse roles and culture of the police service.

Clinical oversight is provided by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust consultant psychologist Dr Roger Kingerlee.

Detective Constable Steve Hunt, an officer with Norfolk Constabulary for the past 27 years, was diagnosed with PTSD and clinical depression after suffering insomnia, flashbacks and nightmares.

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He said: “The support I received from my managers and colleagues was fantastic and it meant a lot. I realised that people did care and that was so important to changing the way I was feeling.

“Also, the fact that I was offered help so quickly was exactly what I needed because when you’re in that situation, getting immediate help can make all the difference to surviving this or not making it.

“Now I’m the person I was before all this started, rather than the person I had become because of some the experiences I’d had.”

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary, David Cutler said: “Given the often relentless nature of the work that our officers and staff do, it is critical they know that support is available should they ever have any difficulties with stress or any other mental health issue.”

Chief Constable of Norfolk, Simon Bailey said: “Mental health must not be a hidden illness, but rather we must do everything to ensure the best possible support is provided at the earliest opportunity so our staff and officers don’t suffer in silence and live in misery. This is another important step in that direction.”

Lorne Green, Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, said: “This a hugely important and very welcome move. It is very easy, all too often, to think of a police force simply as an organisation rather than a body of individual women and men, doing extremely challenging and difficult work on our behalf.”

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore said, “It is really important that our officers and staff, who give so much to support the needs of the citizens they serve, know they have our support when they need it most.

“I welcome this partnership and I’m pleased to see we are leading the way nationally to support staff by providing this bespoke service.”

Caren Reeves Norfolk Police UNISON Branch Secretary and Mark Trask Suffolk police branch secretary thanked the chief officer team for supporting the wellbeing of members.

Andy Symonds, chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation, also speaking on behalf of Suffolk Police Federation, said: “Officers are not robots they are human beings, but also sons, daughters, mothers and fathers. They have families to return home to after long hard shifts at work dealing with these traumatic incidents.

“It is important that forces put in place support to enable officers to continue to cope with this type of work which is both physically and psychologically demanding.

“We’d like to thank both chief constables in Norfolk and Suffolk for recognising this ever-growing need and putting their full support behind this unique service, which I know has already saved lives and supported extremely unwell officers back into the workplace.”

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