for better mental health

John's story

Tuesday, 14 January 2020 John Bradfield

John talks about his own experience of mental health problems, and his activities and achievements as a champion for peer support.

I work as a custody inspector for West Yorkshire Police. I have spent periods as an acting inspector, however my career ambitions were set back due to issues in my personal life which impacted on my work.

In 2012, my son was born and my partner started to suffer with what, at the time, we thought was post-natal depression. She was then however diagnosed with bi-polar and remains on medication for this condition.

I don't think I appreciated the impact that this would have on me or on my relationship, which ultimately resulted in me suffering from a short period of depression.

It's human nature that as individuals we strive to find our own coping mechanisms. Mine were mainly centred around my son. When my partner was first diagnosed with bi-polar, I researched her condition and attended various counselling sessions with her which heightened my interest in mental health and emotional wellbeing, and in helping others who may be experiencing similar issues.

It's human nature that as individuals we strive to find our own coping mechanisms.

As an operational police supervisor, it's inevitable that you are dedicated to your job and in helping your staff through the numerous unpleasant incidents they find themselves at. One of the most impactful of these was in 2013, when one of my officers was shot and seriously injured on duty.

I supported my officer throughout a year of absence, and on their return to work, at the same time being there for the rest of the team.

While I believe I did what any other supervisor would have done during this period, I was proud to receive a Chief Constable's Commendation for "providing the officer with constant and unstinting welfare support and guidance through 12 long and difficult months".

Understanding and educating

Early in 2016, I attended a mental health master class held in Leeds run by Mind.

This opened my eyes to the fact that some of my supervisor colleagues were uneasy when it came to emotional wellbeing and unclear as to the impact and effect it can have on police officers.

As I sit on the West Yorkshire Police Leeds District Bronze Equalities Group, I raised my concerns at the next meeting, and offered to look into these issues further to see how we could enhance the support offered to Leeds District staff.

I researched this extensively, and following discussions and subsequent training provided by Mind to 15 volunteers, in June 2016, the Leeds District Peer Support Group was formed.

Some of my supervisor colleagues were uneasy when it came to emotional wellbeing and unclear as to the impact and effect it can have on police officers.

The group has been extremely successful in listening to, supporting and signposting staff managing a variety of mental health conditions.

I was very surprised and honoured to receive Employee of the Month from my district commander for the work I had put in forming the group.

Teaming up

Through my work with Mind, I was put in touch with the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and discussed peer support with their lead. I was subsequently invited to one of the fire services supervisor training sessions on mental ill health which was run by Mind. I was taken aback by just how relevant and useful this was.

I approached my senior leadership team as I wanted to bring this to Leeds District. In December 2016 I was given the approval and funding to provide this training to all police and staff supervisors in Leeds.

Since running the training I have received some terrific feedback from those who have attended with an overwhelming opinion that the learning will significantly improve the way in which supervisors approach emotional wellbeing with their staff.

Passion for the cause

In October 2016, I was proud to be selected to work in Leeds Custody as a temporary inspector where my people and wellbeing skills could be put to great use. I really feel I have made a difference during my time in what is the busiest custody suite in West Yorkshire and am so impressed and proud in so many ways of the way in which the teams have responded to my leadership style.

Despite the extremely busy nature of my day job, I am always available to provide support to anyone requiring help. I am still able to incorporate my numerous additional roles into what I do on a daily basis.

To me, this side of what I do isn't a job or a role, it's simply about doing what any decent person would do.

I love the work I do around wellbeing and mental health. For me there can be no better satisfaction than knowing I have helped a colleague in need.

To me, this side of what I do isn't a job or a role, it's simply about doing what any decent person would do. It's about doing the right thing which is why I am always so motivated, enthusiastic and passionate when talking about what I do.

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