Matthew Scott, the Deputy Lead of the APCC Portfolio Group on Mental Health and Police & Crime Commissioner for Kent, speaks out for Mental Health Awareness Week:
As the APCC Deputy Lead on Mental Health, I support this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 8-14 May. This year, the Weeks’ theme is ‘Surviving to Thriving’, and I want to take this opportunity to highlight the Blue Light Programme by Mind, a fantastic programme out there which is providing vital support to police officers and other emergency service personnel, as well as highlight the importance of engaging officers and staff in open conversations about mental health and well-being. As you all know, the Police Federation launched the “Protect the Protectors” campaign earlier this year, which amongst other things called for improved welfare support in the Forces. It is all of our responsibility to make the provision of appropriate mental health support a key tenet of improved welfare provision.
As a part of their programme, Mind have produced guidance for Police Forces, which includes tips on how to engage with staff at all levels within the organisation on mental health (more info). Additionally, Mind also run the Blue Light Infoline exclusively for emergency service staff, which provides information on mental health support, as well as advice and signposting to local support services. Available on 0300 303 5999 from 9am-6pm Monday to Friday, the service provides advice on topics ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to staying mentally healthy for work. A range of resources are available to promote the Infoline here, including this poster which has been tailored especially for use within the Police Forces.
As the Deputy Lead on Mental Health, I would like to underline the importance of us working alongside the Forces to promote the availability of these services. Additionally, I would like to highlight that work driven forward by PCCs to improve the way that the police treat those with mental health problems has continued apace: in two years we have seen numbers of those detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act and placed in police custody fall by two thirds. This is in line with commitments that I have made in my Police and Crime Plan, Safer in Kent to reduce pressures on policing due to mental health. Additionally, the Policing Vision 2025, which sets out Police & Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables’ plans for policing over the next decades, underlines that when responding to mental health needs, a range of partners must work together to provide appropriate care and support.
In this vein, it is crucial that we continue to engage with our emergency services staff – who are statistically more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population – to ensure that they can easily access support as and when they need it. For through feeling supported themselves, officers and emergency service staff will not only feel happier both in and outside work, but they will also be much better placed to provide support to people they encounter with mental health problems and refer them to the appropriate services. Through doing this, they will truly be able to thrive in their roles as protectors of the public.
For more information on Mental Health Awareness Week, please click here.