Leicestershire Police & Charity 'Combat Stress' offer support to Armed Forces personnel to tackle Mental Health Issues

Monday, 11 May, 2015


Leicestershire Police is working with the charity Combat Stress to better support former and serving members of the Armed Forces who come into contact with the police.

The first group of officers have been given specialist Mental Health First Aid Training and all officers are being asked to use the Armed Forces Referral Scheme (AFRS), which is funded by NHS England, and is delivered in partnership with the charity Combat Stress. It aims to give former and serving members of the Armed Forces the support they need whether that is about finances, housing, work, health or legal support.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. It is an annual UK event supported by the Mental Health Foundation which has been working since 2000 to promote better mental health. According to the College of Policing an estimated 390,000 police incidents in 2012/13 were linked to mental health. About a quarter of the population experience some kind of mental health problem in any year.

In Leicestershire, as part of the Armed Forces Referral Scheme, nine officers and staff from Leicestershire Police went on a Mental Health First Aid training course on Wednesday and Thursday 6th and 7th May with plans to train another 23 officers and staff over the next 12 months. The training teaches people how to identify, understand and help a person who may be developing a mental health problem. It is aimed at offering mental health first aid for members of the armed forces but covers a range of topics that are relevant to everyone one such as; suicide and depression; self-harm, eating disorders, psychosis and anxiety disorders.

It’s hoped the training could be rolled out to include people from other agencies such as the NHS, local authorities and city wardens. The officers who receive the training this week will become a point of contact for other officers to get advice.

PC 755 Garry Johnson, is delivering the first training course with Sean O’Connor a mental health nurse. Garry is a former veteran. He said; “I know myself that there is a stigma attached to mental health problems among armed forces personnel among both serving officers or veterans. Military people often don’t talk about it or want to admit it but there is a lot of support available if they choose to engage. I would like to remove the stigma attached to mental health after all if you had a broken arm you’d seek help to treat it. The police are often the first people to get involved if things aren’t going well and we want to help veterans by breaking down the stigma attached to mental health and offer them the vital support they are entitled to whether that be for drug or alcohol addiction, help paying the bills or finding a job.”

Julie Shannon, Director of Operations at Combat Stress, said: “The majority of people leaving the Armed Forces make a successful transition to civilian life and do not become involved in crime. However, a minority can carry deep psychological injuries leaving them struggling for years.

“The Armed Forces Referral Scheme is an innovative pathway that will help Veterans to access the mental health care they really need quickly, rather than being lost in the criminal justice system.”

Alex Crisp, Mental Health Partnership Manager for the OPCC who is also a former veteran is leading the project. He said; “This project is part of a wider commitment that Leicestershire has towards supporting mental wellbeing in our community. We hope to build in this work with partners such as Combat Stress.”

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