Police friends and family - how to support someone's mental wellbeing

A guide for friends and family of police service personnel on how to support someone's mental wellbeing.

Your stories

What is mental health and mental wellbeing?

Taryn blogs about mental health and wellbeing. What do they mean to you?

Taryn Ozorio
Posted on 24/01/2011

What is mental wellbeing?

Mental wellbeing describes your mental state – how you are feeling and how well you can cope with day-to-day life. Our mental wellbeing can change, from day to day, month to month or year to year.

If you have good mental wellbeing (or good mental health), you are able to:

  • feel relatively confident in yourself – you value and accept yourself and judge yourself on realistic and reasonable standards
  • feel and express a range of emotions
  • feel engaged with the world around you – you can build and maintain positive relationships with other people and feel you can contribute to the community you live in
  • live and work productively
  • cope with the stresses of daily life and manage times of change and uncertainty

Why is mental wellbeing important for police service personnel?

Our research with over 4,000 emergency services staff and volunteers shows that it’s particularly important for people in the police service to look after their mental wellbeing.

Our research shows:

  • Police service personnel are more at risk of developing a mental health issue than the general population.
  • 91% of police have experienced stress and poor mental health at work.
  • Police service staff and volunteers work hard to prevent mental health problems affecting their performance at work, but this can impact relationships with friends and family.

I try to remain 'professional' but that means my daughter and private life suffer for it.

Partners have often commented on feeling 'second to the job'…

So if you have a friend or family member in the police service, it's helpful to be aware of what can affect their mental wellbeing, and how you can help them stay mentally well.

What can affect someone's mental wellbeing?

We all have times when we have low mental wellbeing – when we feel sad or stressed, or find it difficult to cope. For example, when we suffer some sort of loss; experience loneliness or relationships problems; or are worried about work or money. Sometimes, there is no clear reason why we experience a period of poor mental wellbeing.

Our research shows that the following factors are triggers of poor mental health for people in the police service:

  • repeated exposure to traumatic events
  • high workload pressures
  • long working hours
  • lone working
  • dealing with people who may be physically or verbally abusive

Obviously everybody experiences stress and anxiety; but as a police officer, you're used to dealing with the worst situation day in and day out, things that probably other people wouldn't experience in a lifetime.

The unique challenges of working in the police service can make your friend or family member feel isolated or different from those outside of work. This can result in them feeling more reluctant to share their thoughts or feelings with you, which can have a negative effect on their mental wellbeing.

Most of the people in your life outside of work have never seen or been involved in a traumatic event, so this can lead to you feeling alone, different, or isolated from family and friends.

This information was published in January 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

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