I realise that stress, anxiety and depression are not very festive topics, but I think that the Christmas period is a particularly relevant time to highlight a problem that more people than you would imagine are coping with in a secret silence.
In a recent television interview, I was asked whether I had ever been emotionally affected by any of the murder cases that I had investigated and, if so, had the police force provided me with any counselling service? My answer to the first part of the question was; yes, particularly during the latter years of my police service, there were several cases that had a profound personal impact on me and still affect me to this day. In relation to counselling services, I knew they were available but I didn’t seek them out because, at the time, I didn’t recognise I was so troubled by these incidents and, in a fairly typically macho style, I felt that seeking counselling could be seen as a sign of weakness.
It’s only fairly recently that I have felt more comfortable in openly admitting that there were times during my working life that I suffered quite badly from the affects of stress, anxiety and depression.
I have also been saddened to discover that more former colleagues than I had previously thought were fighting a long running battle with some form of mental illness.
The problems caused by stress, anxiety and depression are not unique to the police service, in fact as many as one in five of the population may suffer at some time in their lives.
One of my former police colleagues, Duncan Whitehead, who has suffered from serious depression for many years, has been campaigning to raise awareness of the issue.
He has even formed his own company called the Blue Elephant and offers services to employers and individuals to develop a greater understanding of the problem.
I would recommend any person struggling with these issues, particularly in the public sector, to talk openly about it and share their problems.
There are professionals who can provide help and seeking help is not a sign of weakness or cause for embarrassment. Any business these days should have a greater understanding of the issue and be prepared to address any manager whose personal style is adding to the problem.
Please don’t suffer in silence, help is out there.