For those of you who are unaware, this is Mental Health Awareness week and I am writing this blog with that issue very much at the forefront of my mind. Those of you who have heard me speak will know that I often pass comment on the fact that modern life is stressful, but unlike many professions, police officers cannot go to work and forget about this stress, but rather when they get to work, they are often faced by a different type of stress, and further challenges and difficulties, and inevitably something has got to give.
We at the PTC are doing a significant amount of work on this subject at the moment to try and better understand the issue, and work out how we can better support police officers who suffer from Non Physical injuries of this nature. The Board of Trustees are also giving the issue their full attention, and last week took the decision to appoint a Head of Clinical Services at the PTC, who will be responsible for developing and implementing our non-physical programme across both Centres.
This will take some time to bed in, so for the meantime I would encourage all of our Officers not to be a man or woman alone if you feel the walls closing in and need help, start the conversation and talk to somebody, and do this early rather than wait until you get to a crisis. Winston Churchill suffered from depression his entire life, describing it as his “Black Dog”, if this type of illness can afflict someone of his stature, it can afflict any of us, so let us use Mental Health Awareness week to start the conversation, and then to start yourself on the road to recovery from this illness. I will keep you updated as we work up our new program.
On other news I was delighted to welcome DCC Iain Spittal from Cleveland for a visit to the PTC, and he was so impressed with our facilities, that he has now agreed to become a PTC Trustee. Other new Trustees who have recently taken up their positions include Jackie Muller from Police Scotland, and Conor Moore and Liam Kelly from PSNI all of whom have now attended at least one Board Meeting.
I took the opportunity to visit one of the firefighters Charity centres in Penrith and learned a variety of useful lessons about how they operate, and we have formally opened 2 of our new pieces of infrastructure at Harrogate, namely the Indoor Cycling studio which was opened by Matt Stephens a former Olympic Cyclist, former Cheshire police officer, and indeed a former patient at the PTC, and then Claire Long from Police Mutual, who opened the newly refurbished Summer House.
At the end of April I went down to the England and Wales Federation HQ in Leatherhead, to take part in a policing charities seminar. As well as it being a useful programme with speakers from the Charity Commission and Mike Penning the Policing Minister, it was a great opportunity to build up relationships with other police charities, and for me to bang the table and encourage police officers to give a bit more to police charities, rather than all the many other charities out there.
At the beginning of May I went down to Burton on Trent to visit the FA Academy to explore possible partnering opportunities with the PTC, and then this week I have been to the Isle of Man and Oldham in the GMP area to try and drum up some support from both of these forces in terms of numbers and recruitment.
On the same day as the Oldham recruitment day, I remained over in Oldham to attend the Oldham Police Division Excellence Awards 2015. I was accompanied by Peter Moore our Chief Financial Officer, as this year the PTC are sponsoring the Alison Armitage Bravery Award. Alison was a GMP Officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2001, and the award was presented on the night by Alison’s parents, Stewart and Lillian. It was a humbling experience and a reminder if anyone needs it of the constant danger that our Officers face every day in the course of their duties.