Hi, My name is Marie Gresswell I am currently a serving Detective Chief Inspector for Bedfordshire Police and this is my very first blog
Police officers can experience a substantial amount of stress within their working environment, home and social life. All of which can cause a toxic overspill resulting in officers suffering from mental and physical illness, burn out and cynicism towards the job. In many cases these officers may not recognise the symptoms they are exhibiting, caused by the daily pressures of the job. Too often it is the family network who will start to see the signs and symptoms before these escalate or seep into the work place and start affecting the officers performance.
Understandably in many professionals there is a degree of stress. Within the police the demands put on our colleagues due to the types of incidents we attend on a daily basis, coupled with shortages on the front line, can cause stress that not only affects our colleagues at work, it begins to impact upon their personal life.
Signposting and support needs to be provided to the family locally to help mitigate the adverse effects of stress on the officer, their friends and families. Research shows that officers have high divorce rates caused by job related stress (Galatzer et al 2013) and added to this many officers often feel that they are left to their own devices and not sufficiently supported by senior officers within the police (Menard & Arter 2014).
Whilst recently at a wellbeing meeting to discussing changes I had implemented in my team to improve wellbeing and reduce stress, I heard that there were plans to survey all police officers around psychology in the work place. I understand from previous surveys the response uptake has been between 30 to 40%, so what are we doing to capture the responses of the other 60% of the force.
At this point in the meeting I had a great idea, different and radical, before I could stop myself I was telling everyone. Quite simply let’s start listening to the extended police family, by that let’s start talking to the officers recorded next of kin (NOK), with a view that we understand how:
- The shifts and long hours are effecting officers and their home life
- Understand if the NOK has noticed any changes to their partner/spouse/sibling when they are off duty
- Understand if the NOK if they had concerns would they know what to do, who to speak to, signposts
- Identified any changes in the officers personality
- Suffering from financial worries
- Look to see the family are looking for support (spousal support)
- Understanding the family believes is an important role of the police force when it comes to providing support.
The above list is not exhaustive. I believe that if our officers are suffering, the family are going to be the first to recognise it, but do family know who they can turn to, and how to get help and support for themselves and the officer?
This is a big piece of work, however I can see real benefits – families won’t hold back in telling it as it is, whereas as Police Officers we don’t want to admit to the truth in case it is considered a weakness and used against us.
I have a set up a small working group that includes representation from Legal, Federation, Unison and HR. I think GDPR will be a hurdle to overcome as well as getting the buy-in from officers to allow us to contact their family. This approach is different but the benefits could be huge as the force could be supporting officers at the earliest opportunity.
I have liaised with other forces to see if any of them are doing anything similar, although none identified many forces want to be kept up to date and are keen to see the results, thus my blog which I will keep updated.
I would be interested in any views or suggestions and you can contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org