Mental Health Awareness Week: PC left “guilty and stressed” after blue light call left her in hospital
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A police officer at Staffordshire Police has said how she was left “guilty and stressed” after a blue light call left her in hospital.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, PC Claire Bond has shared the story of her recovery having been left seriously injured whilst on duty in September 2018.
Claire said: “I was on a morning patrol with my colleague, when we got a call to say a car had crashed into a garage. We blue lighted it to the scene but the car had already gone when we arrived.
“The Stafford 10K was on at the time so there were quite a lot of road closures when, all of a sudden, this BMW pulled out in front of us. We quickly realised it was the same car that had been called in. We tried to pull him over but he failed to stop.
“After he’d gone through people’s gardens and smashed through some road closures, he eventually came to a natural stop at one road block.
“As there was nowhere else for him to go, I assumed that we’d got him. I got out of the car to take him out of his vehicle but before I could get to him he started smashing into cars and reversing into our police car.
“He reversed into a fence, trapping me between the car and the fence. He then reversed off the fence which threw my body into the air. The car wheels had crushed my legs up against a concrete bollard so both of those had broken and then, when I was lying on the floor, I saw him put his reverse lights on. I tried to move and couldn’t because of my legs. I truly think he would have done that had my colleague not got me out of the way. The suspect then drove off, damaging countless numbers of cars in the process.
“Fortunately, he didn’t manage to make it very far and thankfully he didn’t drive into the runners. He got out of the car and made off into some fields before eventually being pulled in. The relief in the back of the ambulance to hear we’d got him was immense, in that moment, it felt like all the pain had been worth it.
“I was taken to hospital, where I nearly lost my left foot. The surgeon said the only reason I’d kept it was due to the boots I was wearing. My right knee also broke and I lost a lot of cartilage. I had a couple of operations during that first week and then I just asked the doctors what I needed to do to get out of hospital, as I just wanted to get home to my kids.
“The physio told me that they’d only let me go if I could walk up to the end of the ward. So, I took a frame and made it to the end of the ward. I was thankfully only in hospital for nine days and it was a nice surprise for the kids when I got home.
“I had to sleep downstairs for three months on the sofa bed though and the kids took it in turns keeping me company. I’d say this is when the stress started to kick in.
“My brain was telling me that I’d not been in hospital for too long, that I was up and about on my crutches and that I’d be back to work within in a few months – but it didn’t quite work out like that. It definitely wasn’t as smooth as I’d originally thought.
“I couldn’t wash myself, I had to sleep on my back and had to keep the leg braces on. This is when things started to get a bit dark really because I felt so guilty that my husband was having to have time off work to become my carer. I felt guilty that my colleague had to see what happened to me. I blamed myself a lot and I see now that I shouldn’t have. It was just really hard work.
“I definitely don’t think I was prepared for the mental battle that I had. It definitely took me a while to realise the mental strain I was under. I was really trying to be strong for everybody as I’d had quite a lot of visitors and it was truly exhausting but people just wanted to check I was still Claire and that I was ok.
“Over time, I worked really hard to get physically better and I did everything I could in that first year of my recovery to get physically better but forgot about the mental side of things. It wasn’t until I’d had a conversation with one of my welfare officers that I realised what I’d been doing.
“They told me that following the incident I was riding a wave of euphoria because I was still alive and I assumed that I would be back to normal once my leg was sorted. In reality that was never going to be the case because I’m not the same person as I was before – whether that’s physically or mentally.
“To be honest, I’d never known anxiety like it because I’d started to avoid people. I tried to put on a brave face and, as long as you’re physically fine, people don’t tend to push so I’d tried to put on a brave face.
“I then was focusing on trying to get back to work and we were aiming for 1 April 2020. I can tell you, it was the weirdest thing coming into work when so many people were starting to work from home with the pandemic.
“As you can image, this didn’t help and things started to go a little bit downhill as it wasn’t the same place I’d left and it wasn’t the same role I was coming back into. I really struggled to deal with the new situation that I’d found myself in, I was struggling to sleep and I honestly couldn’t work myself out – so I went to the doctor before taking up some added counselling.
“I’d always had access to a counsellor but they said that for them to be able to help me properly with my recovery, I would need to recognise myself that I needed that additional mental support and not be forced into getting that assistance.
“Looking back now it makes total sense as if you’re not ready to receive support, then you’re not in a place to fully understand the journey you’ve been so it’s unlikely that any support will help. This second year of recovery has definitely been about me fighting some inner battles.
“The whole experience of dealing with this all in a pandemic was quite odd to be honest. Coming back to work and the euphoria I felt at that was mixed with the worries over Covid – it was strange. So strange that I got to the point where if I ever felt myself feeling sorry for myself over my injuries, then I being to feel guilty because I thought there’s so much more going on. I started to chastise myself for feeling glum and forced myself to be happy and pick myself up.
“I’ve had help from the likes of The Police Treatment Centre in Harrogate and the support I’ve received has been huge as I’ve started to recognise what I’d been through. I’m notorious for always putting others before me and that’s not always been a good thing for my recovery. I needed to slow down and realise what I went through was tremendously challenging.
“The lessons I’ve learned is that you must talk about your mental health and you must allow yourself to be annoyed and be sad about whatever you’ve been through. You’re entitled to feel glum sometimes. When they say “it’s ok, to not be ok” – they truly mean it and I’ve come to terms with that, having initially really struggled.
“Take any help offered to you, don’t be frightened of self-referring to your doctor or whoever. If there’s counselling that will help you then take it and allow your friends and family in because, what I failed to realise, was that people really want to help you and be that pillar of support. So, when I kept refusing stuff, people stop offering and that’s when you need the most help. Allowing them in on your healing process will help them understand what you’re going through and they can really help when you’re at your lowest point.
“Look at it this way, if it was my best friend in my position, I would be doing all I could to help and that’s what I had to let people do for me. I had to realise that I wasn’t a burden as they wanted to help and that really helped me mentally.
“I’ve now got to realise that I’m a new Claire and I’ve got to be strong enough to take her forward. There are some days that I struggle but that’s ok. I’m learning how to cope with that and I’ve got to learn to say no sometimes as I can’t take on the world all on my own! It’s an odd thing to say but I now look back positively and realise I’m utterly grateful for the journey I’ve been on as it’s taught me an awful lot about who I am and who I want to be and where I want to go.
“I’m supremely conscious of the mental challenges I’ve been through. I feel very passionately about mental health and how we as police officers are treated sometimes and how I don’t want anything like what happened to me to happen to anyone else.
“I know that, unfortunately, there is going to be times where bad things happen and I really hope that if anything like it should happen they know the support is there for them. Some stress and anxiety is helpful as it helps us making certain decisions and a stress free life is unhealthy but people can learn to manage it and, in understanding their brain, it will help when taking care of yourself.
“The future is unclear but the support is there if you need help, so please talk and ask for help."