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.

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Taryn Ozorio
Posted on 24/01/2011

What can I do to help someone stay mentally well?

It's important that people in the police service look after their mental wellbeing on a day-to-day basis, and not just after experiencing big, traumatic events. Staying mentally well can reduce their chances of developing mental health problems like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Here are some things you can do to help your friend or family member stay mentally well.

Listen to how they are feeling

Having a chance to talk openly could help someone to feel calmer and more able to move forward. Just being there for them will probably make a big difference.

Help them reflect on whether they are stressed

Often, people don’t notice that some physical symptoms and behaviour (such as not being able to get to sleep, or drinking more than usual) are actually signs of stress. Sometimes you may be able to see it before they recognise it themselves. If you've noticed that someone seems particularly busy, anxious or unwell, you could gently let them know, without judgement, and ask how you can help.

Sometimes your friend or family member may not be able to share specific details about work with you because of the sensitive nature of the information. This can make it even harder for them to open up about the cause of their stress. If this is the case, you can still ask them to reflect on their emotions, without having to go into the specifics about the events themselves. Or you could encourage them to speak to a colleague who they can share these sensitive details with.

Encourage them to look after their physical health

If you have good physical health, you are more likely to have good mental health. Sleep patterns, diet and physical activity all have an impact on your mental wellbeing.

For example, you could suggest doing some physical activity together. It doesn’t matter whether it's gardening, gentle walking or something more active – you will almost always feel better for having done some physical activity. See our information on physical activity and exercise.

Help them identify mood triggers

You can be specific about things you've observed, but try to stay open-minded and non-judgemental. Your perspective might be valuable, but your friend or family member could find this conversation stressful, and being patient will help.

Help them learn and practise relaxation techniques

You could help them research good relaxation techniques and find ways to practise them, such as a weekly mindfulness class, or setting aside time for breathing exercises at home. This might become something that you could do together.

Look after yourself

If someone around you is having difficulty with their mental wellbeing, your mental wellbeing might become affected too. If this happens, try to take a step back and look after yourself. Being calm and relaxed will make you more able to help someone else.

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

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