Police - how to manage your mental wellbeing

Explains how to manage mental wellbeing if you work in the police service, including how to build resilience and where to go for support.

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

Lisa's story

Lisa has been a police officer for 25 years. She developed stress and anxiety and was eventually diagnosed with depression. She started a blog about her experiences, which resulted in her receiving hundreds of emails of support from police officers across the country.

I’ve been in the police for 25 years. About two years ago, I was diagnosed with depression and took about six weeks off work.

Every year there’d be one or two jobs that I’d take home and think about, but it was really the heavy workload, the amount of pressure in the police service, that had a drip-feed effect on me.

I had terrible sleep patterns. I’d go to sleep and I’d suddenly wake up with a jolt, because I’d have these really vivid images like of a lorry crashing in front of me or something like that. It felt like my fight or flight response had gone totally wrong, and I was always on alert. 

I always felt like I had to stay strong, that I couldn’t be weak; but that was the worst thing I could do, really, because everyone’s got their limit, and I had reached mine.

It all came to a head in 2013. At the time, I didn’t realise anything was wrong with me; it was actually others around me who had noticed little changes in me. I kept breaking down in tears all the time, and it was like I had no filters on my emotions at all. I was snappy, grumpy and dreading going to work each day.

Eventually my friends and family said that I was more than just a bit stressed, and they convinced me to go to the doctor’s. So I did, and the doctor diagnosed me with depression and put me on anti-depressants. It was actually quite important that I was diagnosed, because once that happened it helped me realise that I did have an illness, and there was a plan to get better.

I was only off work for six weeks. I was nervous about going back, but I went back on a return to work programme and my bosses were absolutely fantastic, and I had a lot of support from my colleagues.

A few people didn’t quite understand what had happened to me, and that’s one of the reasons I started blogging about my experiences. I started writing to address the stigma, to start talking about it, and to let people know that actually there’s nothing wrong with not being well.

I wanted people to know that it was okay because we’re under so much stress at the moment, and it’s absolutely normal and fine to talk about it. In fact, being open about my experiences is probably one of the best things that I could have done, because now I feel like I did when I first joined the police when I was 20. I used to think that depression was a sign of weakness, but it's not. I feel that it can sometimes be a sign of being too strong for far too long.

I think we, the police, do a good job most of the time looking after the public, but we don’t always look after ourselves to the same level. 

It’s really important for people to know that everybody has mental health as well as physical health, and sometimes you’re well and sometimes you’re not well.

If you are able to recognise that you are under a lot of stress, you should talk to someone – either someone you trust at work, or friends or family. It’s not right to have to cope with that level of stress and anxiety day in and day out, and over a period of long time it can make you ill.

This information was published in May 2015. We will revise it in 2018.

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