Kent Police case study
Kent Police takes the mental health of its staff seriously. Read about how it ensures that the wellbeing of its workforce is always a priority.
Kent Police was the first emergency service department to sign the Time to Change pledge in 2012. This was backed by a tangible action plan outlining the commitments it had made to challenge mental health stigma.
The key motivation was a desire to make mental wellbeing more mainstream. Poor mental health can still too often be seen as a taboo subject, especially within the workplace.
One of the main instigators behind Kent Police signing up to the pledge was Inspector Wayne Goodwin. He wanted to bring the subject of poor mental health into the open. As a member of the local disability support group, Wayne was concerned that there had always been more of a focus on providing help and support for physical disabilities and wished to address this imbalance. Wayne decided to speak up about his own mental health journey, to help get people talking and create a ripple effect.
Poor mental health can still too often be seen as a taboo subject, especially in the workplace.
The ambition was, and is, to ensure that the general wellbeing – both mental and physical – of the workforce is always a priority.
Kent Police consists of north, west and east divisions, who are working together to deliver a better overarching health and wellbeing strategy. A central aim of ours was to provide better peer support, as well as improve overall support services for staff and volunteers.
A network of champions
One of the key aspects of this was to establish a network of health and wellbeing champions. These individuals volunteer to undertake training to be able to provide support to their colleagues. Each station within the service has a champion who acts as a central contact for the overall service network. The contact details for each champion are clearly displayed on each station's health and wellbeing noticeboard as well as the service intranet to ensure this is communicated well to staff and volunteers.
Such is the enthusiasm for the network and support it provides, that there is a waiting list for people who want to undertake champion training as part of their professional development. Health and wellbeing champions help to provide a confidential and safe environment to assist colleagues who may choose to approach them to talk about mental health issues, as an alternative to their line manager.
Such is the enthusiasm for the network and support it provides, that there is a waiting list for people who want to undertake champion training.
Health and wellbeing champions signpost colleagues to both internal and external services that may be able to provide more advanced help, for example the Kent Police Welfare and Counselling Services (WCS). The WCS team not only provides comprehensive and confidential therapeutic support to promote mental wellbeing, but also delivers pyscho-education as part of training activities.
Kent Police Service also uses health and wellbeing SPOCS as an alternative support system. These are individuals who have personal experience of mental health problems and are willing to share their stories. This can be a less formal approach for those seeking help and advice from others who have a similar and shared understanding of their own experience of a mental health problem.
Another element of the network is a career mentoring scheme where colleagues with lived experience of a mental health problem who have progressed in their careers, act as mentors to other colleagues, using their lived experience to support colleagues experiencing similar mental health problems.
Colleagues with lived experience of a mental health problem [...] act as mentors to other colleagues.
We work to ensure an overarching approach to their support policy and processes through their Health and Wellbeing Forum. The forum holds regular meetings with representatives from across the service, including staff associations and HR as well as champions and SPOCS. The different strands of the support network are able to feed into discussions and relay outcomes to their respective areas of support.
In addition, all outcomes of these meetings are published and prominently displayed on the health and wellbeing noticeboards of each division so that each member of staff is aware of the service's health and wellbeing processes and policies. The freedom to feel able to speak openly about their mental wellbeing is a key part of the message Kent Police has endeavoured to convey to all service personnel.
Mandatory mental health training
Another key action of the service has been to provide mandatory training in mental health support for line managers and supervisors. Problems can often occur within the workplace when management are unsure how to support a member of staff who may be affected by poor mental health.
Senior level buy-in is essential to ensuring that approaches to tackling mental health stigma are fully implemented and taken seriously.
Senior level buy-in is essential to ensuring that approaches to tackling mental health stigma are fully implemented and taken seriously and at Kent Police, the senior management team were very open to the idea of signing the Time to Change pledge to visibly demonstrate their commitment to challenging stigma from the very beginning of the process.
Our approach to staff mental health and wellbeing has yielded positive results and is about to be emulated by Essex Police service, who are covered by the same National Health Service Authority.
We fully believe that they have been successful in ensuring they provide a safe working environment for their staff and volunteers. They encourage their service personnel to speak out about their mental health problems and endeavour to provide them with the support needed to ensure that they are able to maintain general good health and wellbeing.
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