Blog: Does having a mental health issue stop your career progression?

Published 9 Aug 2022
Written by
ACC Chris Davidson
Lincolnshire Police
Reading time
5 mins

ACC Chris Davison of Lincolnshire Police has spoken openly about his personal challenges with mental health in a recent episode of their force webcast. He has allowed us to share his story and a link to the webcast here this week as we begin to extend our Peer Support programme to work with the Chief Police Officers' Staff Association (CPOSA)

We know that the culture of working in policing makes it hard for people to admit when things are not right. 

We all need to play our part in starting those conversations about mental health. Having role models across the organisation, especially in senior positions, is important to show that having a mental health challenge is not a weakness and it will not stop you from progressing your career.

No one is immune to the potential perils of mental ill health – regardless of rank or role - but experiencing poor mental health doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to operate at a high level or within a pressurised environment.

The myth of heroic leadership in the service can lead to placing even further internal pressure on Chief Officers not to admit that they are suffering a time of poor mental health – often even to themselves.

Showing and discussing vulnerability can serve as “permission” to those more junior in the organisation to understand that seeking help is not a weakness and serves to break the strong in-service taboo about talking to friends and colleagues about these issues.

I have had conversations with current and former chief officers and have admitted that they had periods of ill health that they didn’t seek help with or felt compelled to keep a secret because of concerns about how this would affect their career.

It is sad that some of our most talented colleagues have had to suffer more than they should due to this cultural pressure – a pressure which should not exist within our profession.

Our responsibility is to each other; to ask the difficult questions, to notice when colleagues are not themselves and to role model to the rest of our teams how we should support each other through what are often long, challenging and testing careers.

I think it is excellent that CPOSA and the National Police Wellbeing Service are instigating a peer support package for chief officers. The stresses and strains of life do not stop when you get to the executive corridor.


Can you help a colleague who may need help?

If you think someone doesn’t seem themselves, start the conversation. Ask them if they are ok. Then ask them again. Asking a second time gives them permission to tell the truth.


What are the first steps to getting mental health support for yourself?

The first step is admitting that you are struggling, which is a daunting prospect because you are stepping into the unknown. There is support and advice available should you need it:

  • Your force wellbeing teams, Occupational Health or EAP.
  • Your own GP
  • Samaritans - If you want to have a conversation outside of work, Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call: 116 123 for free 

Other useful signposts 

Copyright statement

Our published blog articles are written or supplied by the third parties we’ve identified and are not available for re-use under the non-commercial College licence. Anyone wishing to copy or reuse all or any part of these articles will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright owner(s).