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Stress Awareness Month 2023 - a blog by PSA President Paul Fotheringham

PSA President Paul Fotheringham shares his thoughts as part of Stress Awareness Month 2023:

As we come to the end of Stress Awareness Month, I want to share some thoughts and issue a plea to everyone who works in policing.
I’ve made it very clear since being elected into the post of PSA President, that the wellbeing of our officers and staff is my utmost priority. Over the past year, this has become even more important as we navigate our way through the most difficult social context for our job we have probably ever seen.
Policing is a stressful.  it’s unique in terms of the demands it poses and the sacrifices it requires, and it sits in the middle of political and societal debate in a way we don’t often see in other industries.  Right now – we’re seeing this at its most extreme.
Our people go to work every day knowing that their ethics and values are being questioned in the media and amongst communities, and they’re seeing horrific cases of criminal behaviour or misconduct from colleagues they know should never have been bestowed with police powers.

They’re also seeing public sector partners regularly striking against unfair pay, something that they are legal prohibited from doing.
This takes its toll. The latest statistics relating to mental health issues amongst our people are concerning.
For most of the public, this impact will never be fully realised and I don’t blame anyone for that.  The public want to see their police service as a trustworthy, reliable force that will be there when needed.  That is 100% what we strive to be.
But as leaders in policing, we do understand this picture linked to stress and mental health, and we do have a duty to react.
I have been working at length with colleagues across the sector to improve the wellbeing provision we offer our people. After learning that less than half of forces have self assessed their occupational health provision under Oscar Kilo’s bluelight framework, I was pleased to see that all chiefs were reminded of their obligation to do this by the Policing Minister.
I have worked with Oscar Kilo to enhance the peer support provision offered to our members and we are exploring new ways to provide confidential mental health support to senior leaders.
Whilst I continue to push for more, I’m also acutely aware that many of the excellent mental health and wellbeing support services we have nationally and within forces are not being used to their full potential. Our own members told us recently that many are fully aware of the help available to them but do not use it.

My plea to everyone in policing is therefore to reach out for help, even if you think there are others who are struggling more than you.  Every person in policing has a right to the fantastic wellbeing support services offered by Oscar Kilo and by in-force teams. It is never too early to ask for help.  I have personally used and benefitted from a number of support services both in force and through the external provision of Flint House – and I honestly can’t praise them enough for the impact they had on my physical and mental health.
Finally – even when times are tough, remember why you joined, why policing called to your sense of public service, and that your efforts are valued and appreciated by your colleagues and your communities.