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Seven wellbeing ambassadors take message to frontline

Welfare support is getting a major boost with seven ambassadors recruited by Flint House.

Peer support for mental health is being strengthened by the national rehabilitation centre.

Flint House has appointed seven officers with direct experience of mental health issues as ambassadors.

Each have shared how they have dealt with welfare issues linked to the job and gone public in a bid to encourage other officers dealing with similar issues to come forward.

The rehabilitation centre which serves forces in the south of England  hopes their new advocates will make new officers aware that they have a rehabilitation centre dedicated to them.

The new ambassadors are Cambridgeshire PC Paul Roe and Holly the dog; Metropolitan Police officer James Sarson; Bedfordshire PC Ben Gates; and four Metropolitan Police officers – Darren Laurie, Darren Sanders, Mick Gibson and Keith Malda.

One of the biggest wellbeing issues for officers is the cumulative effect of dealing with multiple serious incidents over the course of their career. The average person deals with three traumatic incidents on average. But for a typical officer, it’s around 600.

And working or recuperating during COVID-19 has added to the pressure.

PC Ben Gates suffered five fractures to his right leg, 12 broken ribs, a shattered L5 vertebrae, and a cracked sternum when his response car careered off the road two years ago. He was also left with post-traumatic stress disorder that went undiagnosed until a GP pointed out that he needed support.

PC Gates said: “That element just came out of nowhere. I got myself back to work within six months, but I wasn’t frontline, I was on restricted duties. Covid’s played its part, too, being stuck within the same four walls.

"But I didn’t realise – I thought it was just boredom, frustration and pain. It was only when I spoke to my GP about medication for the pain that he said: ‘There’s something else here. We need to look at this.’”

Flint House has also appointed a wellbeing dog to show they can be a way of unlocking issues linked to trauma.

PC Roe attended Flint House several times himself, receiving physio for a dislocated ankle and also for a wellbeing break.

He said: “When I got injured recently, it triggered trauma I’d been through over 20 years – including being assaulted and attending four train crashes. I was diagnosed with PTSD and at that point my dog Holly changed and started to look after me – she knew I wasn’t right.

“I don’t know where I’d be today if it wasn’t for Holly. She is a perfect wellbeing dog, she really helps people with trauma. People can talk about difficult things when they’re playing with a dog.”

The group have put themselves forward as a way of thanking staff at the centre for helping them recover and move forward with their careers.

Darren Laurie, said: “We’ve all benefited from Flint House ourselves or know people who have been there. I was in a motorbike crash and my injury would have been so much worse without Flint House.

“We want to pay them back a little bit and do something positive to try to help other people. Younger officers might not be aware of what Flint House does – and they may not realise what being injured can do to you, especially when you’re used to being active.”

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