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Working together to prevent suicide in the police service

Published 22 Feb 2022
Written by
Oscar Kilo
National Police Wellbeing Service
Reading time
5 mins

A consensus statement setting out the police service’s commitment to suicide prevention will be published on Tuesday, 22 February 2022.

The consensus, agreed by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC), College of Policing (CoP), Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), Home Office, Unison, Police Federation and Police Superintendents Association, acknowledges the progress that has been made to reduce mental health stigma whilst recognising that, as part of our wider commitment to improving the mental health of our people, we must all work together on this important issue.

Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service (NPWS) has been working with the UK Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England) to learn from the ambulance service’s approach to suicide prevention in order to develop this consensus statement and guidance for policing.

What will happen now the consensus is agreed and published?

The Officer and Staff Safety Review (OSSR) proposal to improve the way data is recorded on police officer and staff death, serious injury, and suicide has been agreed and will be progressed.

The NPWS has funded and commissioned a toolkit working closely with the Samaritans given their expertise in this area. The toolkit will be made available in Spring 2022 to all forces and will also be accessible via the Oscar Kilo website.

Reference to this toolkit will be included in the NPWS Blue Light Wellbeing Framework (BLWF) which is completed annually by every force and is requested by HMICFRS.

Andy Rhodes, Service Director for Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service said;

This is a hugely important commitment for policing, and I am encouraged by the support this has received from across policing and government. The NPCC suicide prevention working group has been working tirelessly for years and today’s statement is testament to their advocacy. 

Research demonstrates the police service culture is changing with evidence of reduced stigma and awareness of the impact of police work on our mental health. The NPWS was established to provide guidance & support to forces, as well as training and resources for the 200,000 police officers and staff who work tirelessly to keep the public safe. This includes:

  • 8,000 annual psychological risk assessments for higher risk groups

  • coordination of an annual national wellbeing survey

  • a fleet of 10 wellbeing ‘outreach’ vans which provide onsite physical, financial and psychological health checks – as well as deploying to critical incidents and large policing operations such as G7 and COP26 - over 20,000 officers and staff had contact with the van fleet in 2021

  • trauma intervention training for line managers

  • online materials and webinars covering issues such as fatigue, cancer awareness, stress management

  • anti-stigma and communication campaign materials and resources

  • access to over 80 wellbeing dogs through the OK9 network

Our suicide prevention approach recognises the vital role these preventative activities play in helping to reduce escalation into mental health crisis, whilst acknowledging there is more to do.

The suicide prevention consensus will address gaps in awareness, education and data collection specific to suicide and allow us to ensure that we are doing everything we can to support police forces, making sure they have the tools and guidance they need to support their staff.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair Martin Hewitt said;

Policing is by its nature a stressful job and officers are exposed to some of life’s most challenging situations on a daily basis. As leaders, we have a responsibility to look after the people whose job it is to keep us all safe. As the stigma around mental health has slowly reduced in recent years, we have seen hidden issues emerge, such as high levels of stress and trauma, which can lead to serious problems if they are not properly addressed.

The NPWS, with support from leading charities and staff associations, has already done crucial work to change attitudes towards mental health in policing. By providing services like occupational health provision, along with additional training and health checks, we have become better equipped to support the wellbeing of our officers and staff. Our work has already made a difference and more police officers and staff feel ok to say they’re not ok.

We recognise, however, that there is more to do, and this commitment is a vitally important and encouraging development. The work Oscar Kilo are undertaking with colleagues in the health service will undoubtedly help us to develop the consensus statement, create guidance informed by the latest best practice and research, and ultimately, ensure we are doing everything we can to support our people.

Andy Marsh, College of Policing CEO, said;

Working in policing involves enormous responsibility, facing unpredictable and sometimes threatening situations, while being held accountable to the highest standards demanded by the public.

We joined the service to protect people and this must include our own staff. Despite our differing roles in policing, we are all leaders and have a responsibility to look out for the welfare of colleagues and remember that if we are suffering ourselves there is help available.

The National Police Wellbeing Service is there for all officers and staff and I would encourage you to go online and be aware of its work should you or a colleague ever need that support.

There is more to do, but I want officers and police staff to be reassured that we will continue our work to give the service the best guidance and tools, informed by evidence, to support them and prevent a mental health crisis in its tracks.

 

Find out more

Suicide prevention consensus statement (pdf)

Suicide prevention current landscape (pdf)

Suicide prevention next steps (pdf)