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The important reason why mental health days are being introduced in the police

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Susan Devaney
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As a first of its kind for policing, Lincolnshire Police force are introducing an initiative that actively encourages police officers to take an extra two days’ holiday to focus on “physical and mental wellbeing”. 

After a woman’s email to her boss asking for a day off to focus on her mental health went viral last year, the idea of taking a ‘mental health day’ has started to be talked about like never before.

Which is why, as we start to focus on our mental health and wellbeing rather than working ourselves to the bone in 2018, public bodies across the UK are starting to follow suit by rolling out initiatives focused on wellbeing.

As a first of its kind in policing, Lincolnshire Police officers and staff are to be given an extra two days holiday per year in a bid to improve their “physical, emotional and spiritual welfare”.

The scheme, which will be launched next month, aims to encourage staff to make time for rest and recuperation as it will provide them with 32 days’ holiday in total per year.

“This is one of a number of initiatives that we will introduce over the next few months. I have been most impressed by the commitment of Lincolnshire Police staff and officers but I am increasingly seeing the impact that this can have on their physical and mental wellbeing,” explains Chief Constable Bill Skelly.

“By encouraging our staff to take time to look after themselves I believe that we can make an improvement to how they feel at work. We hope that this will help to reduce sickness and improve levels of resilience across the organisation.”

And it’s a move welcomed by all, as the number of police officers taking sick leave due to mental health has nearly doubled over the past six years at the London’s Metropolitan Police force, according to the Evening Standard

The scheme aims to encourage staff to make time for rest and recuperation as it will provide them with 32 days’ holiday in total per year

For many police officers, not knowing what kind of situation or issue they’re going to be met with on a daily basis can take its toll on wellbeing.

“The problem with policing, of course, is you never know what’s around the corner. It is the cumulative effect of exposure to multiple trauma incidents that has broken me. We are all human beings underneath our uniform and it is a simple fact that the human brain can only cope with so much,” writes one female Hampshire PC who penned an anonymous open letter after struggling with her mental health.

After being turned away by her force after initially asking for help, she made the decision to visit her GP after her physical health and personal life started to suffer too. Her GP signed her off with stress and she was given anti-depressants.

“This experience has made me realise how common mental health concerns are among police officers. Far more than I ever cared to notice previously. Many colleagues have reached out to me; some were shocked as they never realised I was struggling, others told me of their own struggles and made me feel slightly less alone.”

With police budgets to be cut by £700 million by 2020, focusing on mental health has never been more imperative. Hopefully, if this initiative proves to be successful for the Lincolnshire Police force it will be introduced across forces around the rest of the UK.

If you’re struggling with your mental health and are waiting to start NHS mental health therapy here are some tips on how to look after yourself while you wait. 

For one day only on Tuesday 27 March, Fearne Cotton has taken over stylist.co.uk and transformed it into her very own Happy Place – a digital sanctuary, focusing entirely on wellness, happiness and good mental health.

For similarly inspiring and uplifting content, check out Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place, available on Apple Podcasts now.

Images: Getty / iStock

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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