Police car air-fresheners aimed at tackling mental health stigma
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We have joined forces with a Staffordshire organisation to tackle the stigma around talking about mental health by using air-fresheners in police cars to prompt a meaningful conversation.
Officers from Stafford Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) and Stoke-on-Trent South Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) are working with organisation Brighter Futures in Hanley to encourage both policing personnel and members of the public to open up about how they are feeling.
This work involves putting an air-freshener in every police car which includes the words: ‘Mate, you don’t seem yourself’ in order to encourage officers to talk to their colleagues while out-and-about.
Leaflets are also being distributed at police stations, motorway services and local businesses to advise people how they can get support to improve their mental health in Stoke-on-Trent.
Since July 2021, officers have continued to complete suicide prevention training with Brighter Futures and their community champions to enhance their knowledge of how best to assist those experiencing a mental health crisis.
Sergeant Zoe Thompson, of Stafford NPT, said: “We are often the first on the scene when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis and so anything we can do to get people to open up and talk to someone about what they are feeling before they get to this crisis point is really important – whether they are members of the public or staff.
“Officers are members of the public too when they are not on duty, and so it is crucial that we all feel like we can talk to someone about anything that is playing on our minds or having a detrimental effect on our wellbeing.”
It comes as the force lends its support to national Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs until 15 May and follows the force’s commitment to The Working Together to Prevent Suicide consensus.
The consensus, which came out in February this year, was agreed by the National Police Chiefs Council, the College of Policing, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, the Police Federation, the Police Superintendents Association, the Home Office and Unison, to acknowledge the progress made in helping to reduce mental health stigma.
As part of the consensus, nationally, forces continue to improve the way data is recorded on police officer and staff death, serious injury and suicide, as well as improve the support given to family and friends of police officers and staff affected by suicide.
In line with this, the force ran its Just Say Something campaign in September last year, aimed at encouraging officers to speak up when they experience mental health concerns.
PCSO Keith Mellor, who worked on the campaign and is part of Early Intervention Unit at the Harm Reduction Hub in Longton, said: “We see members of the community affected by mental health concerns every day and the culminative effect of this on officers can be quite dramatic.
“For those of us who work in policing, we are used to varied days – where you don’t know what you’re going to face next, and though that can be exciting the unpredictable nature of the job can be challenging mentally and can take its toll.
“That’s why this latest campaign with Brighter Futures is so important in encouraging people to talk to each other, to reach out and ask them how they are.
“Though people may say they are ‘fine’, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask again, and again.
“Just acknowledging that someone doesn’t seem quite right can make all the difference to people who may be contemplating taking their own lives.”
Sophie Henaughan of Brighter Futures, said: “We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from the force in raising awareness of mental health support services for the communities of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.
“We’ll continue to work to break the stigma surrounding mental health and support our communities to achieve better wellbeing.