As we near the end of Men’s Health Awareness Month, President Paul Griffiths discusses wellbeing issues within the Police Service:
November is known as ‘Men’s Health Awareness Month’, also termed ‘Movember’ by many, as people come together to raise funds and awareness for health conditions affecting men. This is a useful time for us to stop and reflect on our own wellbeing and that of our colleagues.
Statistics tell us that, globally, men die on average 6 years earlier than women, often from preventable reasons, and that 75% of suicides in the UK are by men. Sadly, the workplace will contribute towards some of our health statistics, so we must speak openly about issues, and do all we can to support anyone who is struggling.
The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and the cause of 18 deaths every day. Many of us will struggle to comprehend these statistics, but it is a part of our reality. Viewing our own research from policing, they tell us that 1 in 5 officers are experiencing PTSD and that 63% of our Association are showing signs of anxiety, depression or poor mental health. We see that in all levels of leadership, we have a duty and responsibility to protect those who are serving our communities, sometimes at severe detriment to themselves.
We know that prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting men with nearly 50,000 new cases in the UK every year, but are we doing enough to educate and promote the importance of regular checking? Cancer awareness, in all its forms, is something that we should actively promote to our staff in our effort to safeguard the condition of all of our workforce.
I am delighted that through the work launched by the Police Federation, we are exploring how we can better support female colleagues suffering the impacts of the menopause. This is crucial and something we should have implemented some time ago. What is not as well known, is that men can suffer from something known as andropause or ‘testosterone deficiency syndrome’. One of the factors in this can be depression, so it is important for us to be aware of impact of the ageing process and the knock-on effects the mental strain of policing could have for our workforce.
I found it quite poignant that CALM statistics say 70% of men say their friends can rely on them for support, but only 48% say that they rely on their friends. In other words: we’re here for our mates, but worried about asking for help from ourselves. It is so important that we create the right environment and atmosphere to talk about issues – we have a responsibility as leaders and an expectation from those that lead us.
We need to improve the working environment and I think we are making great inroads into doing this. The launch of the National Wellbeing Service and the proposal of a Police Covenant means that wellbeing will now be a constant part of the network and support services available to our workforce. We must keep talking, listening and watching over each other. We often speak of the police family, and with family comes care and responsibility; responsibility for own wellbeing and for those around us.
We must continue our progress and create a Service which leads on wellbeing, by supporting, understanding and responding to the health issues affecting both men and women.