Never has it been more important for people to understand the messages of Mental Health Awareness Week.
That is the view of Cheshire Police Federation’s wellbeing and equality lead, Dan Lever, who was speaking on the first day of the awareness week which runs until Sunday (24 May).
“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, police officers are facing huge challenges not just in helping keep our communities safe but also in terms of maintaining their own mental health and wellbeing,” says Dan.
“Those working in front-line roles may have concerns about the risks they are facing and worrying about contracting the virus or passing it on to their families. But those working from home may be feeling isolated or trying to juggle their roles while taking responsibility for home-schooling their children.
“It is also dangerous to under-estimate the financial pressures people are under. Several officers have already been in touch with us to say they are struggling to make ends meet due to their partners losing their jobs, being furloughed or just having a reduced income.
“Police officers and staff are not just coping with the demands of their roles but they are also human and share the anxieties and concerns of other people at this time.”
The Federation has produced a wellbeing pack designed to give officers and staff access to a wide range of organisations that can offer support to those concerned about their welfare.
It is also encouraging officers to ensure they take their annual leave after a number of members said they were canceling their holiday since they could not travel.
“We feel it is still important for officers to take time off,” says Dan, “There is a real risk of people burning out, especially given the extra pressures we are all under so I would urge people to take any leave they have booked even if it’s just a case of staying at home, spending some time in the garden or doing jobs at home. Everyone needs a break from work and it is probably even more important right now that people take any leave owing to them.”
Dan has welcomed the progress made in raising awareness of mental illness and wellbeing but believes there is still a stigma around talking about struggling financially.
He hopes a new Force initiative each day this week will encourage people to speak if they are worried about their finances.
Dan, Federation secretary Tony Condon, Jo Moscrop from No1 Copperpot credit union and a number of people from the Force will be taking part in virtual coffee and chat sessions during which officers and staff can discuss any concerns they have either as part of a group session or on a one-to-one basis.
You can find out more about the sessions on the Force intranet.
Dan is also encouraging officers to consider the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week – kindness.
“I think we could all look for ways to be kind to others but, perhaps just as importantly, we need to be kind to ourselves,” he says.
Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week.
Learn about the national Federation’s campaign against officer suicide and in support of mental wellbeing.