Blog: 'The Empty Chair'

Published 25 Apr 2019
Written by
Detective Sergeant Brad Greenstreet
New Zealand Police
Reading time
5 mins

Brad Greenstreet has a strong interest in mental health and wellbeing in law enforcement. He has created a series of videos entitled ‘The Empty Chair’ after experiencing depression himself in 2017. The videos feature a number of officers sharing their own stories about mental health and were used in a campaign within his local force to raise awareness.

Brad got in touch with us after receiving a Woolf Fisher Police Fellowship award for his work which means he gets the chance to explore internationally, what other agencies and law enforcement bodies are doing around mental health to take back and share with the New Zealand Police.

He explains more about his experiences and creating the videos below:

The videos came about from an idea I had after going through depression myself. Early in my career (14 years ago) I dealt with some post-traumatic stress, and in 2016 went through a bout of depression as a result of various personal and work-related factors. During these times I asked for help and got the support I needed, but was extremely cautious about who I told about my struggles. Certainly when I first joined the police, I didn’t dare tell anyone the problems I was having.

It was only after talking to a couple of colleagues that I realised mental health issues among police officers and staff are far more common that I had thought. However, we are often hopeless at talking about these issues and there is still somewhat of a stigma and negative culture around discussing our mental health and wellbeing.

Around that time, I went on a sergeants development course and after a presentation on stress and trauma, I heard some general comments and discussion that, to me, showed there was a major lack of understanding of the struggles faced by many officers and staff.

As a result, I proposed an idea to produce a series of short videos featuring police staff sharing personal struggles they had been through. The intent was to raise awareness and encourage healthy conversations among staff regarding the mental and emotional challenges faced by police.

It wasn’t difficult to find staff willing to share their story, and with the help of our photography section, I produced the series called ‘The Empty Chair’. The videos were shared internally on the intranet and publicised via our district commanders newsletter. While they were a local initiative, they were viewed around the country and the feedback was incredible, which highlighted to me the importance of the issue and the prevalence of the problem. The video were extremely well received by frontline staff through to national managers.

In my opinion, the success of the videos was because they were not only relevant, but made by cops for cops. They were raw and featured local staff that people know and respect, without it appearing to just be lip service or to tick a box. A massive amount of credit must go to each of the individuals who shared their very personal stories, which was incredibly brave and courageous. What struck me is that when each of them agreed to participate, they made comments that if by sharing their story it helps one other person, then it’s worth it.

Fortunately in Canterbury, we also have a leadership team that was, and is, extremely supportive and genuinely understands the importance of looking after our staff.

Go to the empty chair videos

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