Truly worrying statistics from mental health charity Mind released today show that more than 1 in 4 staff and volunteers in emergency service roles have contemplated suicide as a result of stress or poor mental health.
I absolutely recognise that organisations such as Mind and initiatives such as their #mybluelight campaign are tackling these issues, and are making excellent progress. However, the road is long and steep: digging deeper into the report, this paragraph stood out for me: "less than half (48 per cent) had taken time off work due to stress, low mood or poor mental health. In addition, nearly half (46 per cent) said that someone would be treated differently (in a negative way) if they disclosed a mental health problem at their organisation."
Herein lies the real challenge - creating a culture at individual, supervisory, organisational and national levels that recognises the importance of the people we ask so much of. Recognises that they are exactly that - people. Once we have achieved that recognition, there must be consistent, tangible action to address these issues - and it must be as proactive as possible. It brings to mind the trend in another policing hot topic: over time, a reduction in stop and search contributes to a proliferation of knives being carried, a rise in stabbings and lives lost. Take away the consistent proactive work, and often a larger problem is created to react to later.
We live in a climate of financial restriction, where every expense requires extra justification. This can sadly sometimes lead to support services, appropriate catering, rest days, fitness facilities and so on falling off the list of "affordable" items for organisations. They become seen as exactly that, "support", rather than their actual importance as a fundamental building block of a healthy and productive organisation. Today's statistics show what happens without investment in people's health and wellbeing - let's hope they act as a wake up call.
Clearly, people currently feel that either help is not available, or they will not be supported in seeking it. I know all too well that this is not a simple conundrum to solve, but I hope that the positive light of these troubling numbers will be a realisation for many that they are not alone, and that there is an alternative to feeling low, trapped and desperate.