I’m not really an expert in anything. I’m just a man with a story to tell…
I’ve told some of that story in a book called ‘Blue’ – and the response from people who’ve been kind enough to read it has been extraordinary.
I’m very, very grateful.
The past few weeks in policing have been astonishingly challenging – as, once again, police officers and staff have ventured into the hurting places. The desperate places. The agonising places.
They’ve been joined there by colleagues from the other emergency services – and by ordinary citizens who made the choice to step forwards rather than back.
Only those who were there will ever truly know.
And it got me wondering whether it might be worth making a note of some simple, practical thoughts on dealing with trauma.
What follows is based on my own experience of being a police officer for the last 25 years – and of breaking under the strain. I’m really not an expert – so please make sure you look for good advice wherever you can find it.
(1) Recognise that this is a heck of a job
- Policing is the best job in the world, yes – but also one of the most demanding.
- It’s more than just a job of course – it’s the Job. And there are very few other roles in society that offer so many invitations into the darkness.
- I don’t think we’ve even begun to understand the compound effect on our people of the repeated exposure to extreme trauma.
- And the natural, normal, human thing is to feel – sometimes, to feel completely overwhelmed.
(2) Realise that none of us is invincible
- I have worked with many of the finest people you could ever hope to meet – people of endless courage and compassion. To me, they will always be the everyday heroes and heroines who police our streets.
- But we all have our breaking points. None of us is designed to absorb trauma without limit.
- Admitting that might be the case is not a sign of weakness – completely the opposite in fact.
- We all have our stories and we all have our scars.
(3) Understand that it really is good to talk
- It always has been – and it always will be.
- None of us is supposed to carry the burdens of life – and the Job – on our own.
- We all need a helping hand sometimes.
- Sometimes, all that’s needed is a simple conversation with a colleague – a friend who has been there too and who understands.
- Sometimes, a little bit more is required.
- I’ve been seeing a professional counsellor for the last 4 years – and she’s wonderful. She helps me to unravel the mysteries of me and put myself back together again.
- One of the first things I did when I woke up this morning was to take an anti-depressant.
- And there is absolutely no shame in doing so.
- They don’t work for everyone, but they seem to work for me – and for lots of other people besides.
- This is one to talk through with your doctor, of course.
- We live in a world that is moving faster than is good for any of us. And we could all do with slowing down a bit – pausing to breathe and rest and recover.
- As Gandhi once said, ‘There is more to life than increasing its speed’.
- The question is whether anyone was listening.
(6) Rational, healthy self interest
- That’s a phrase I’ve borrowed from Martin Luther King.
- We all need to look after ourselves.
- That might involve something I’ve already mentioned – rest, taking medication or seeing a counsellor.
- Or it might be something as simple as keeping physically fit.
- But, whatever it might be, most of us could do with being a little bit more kind to ourselves.
(7) Recommended Reading
Two brilliant books to mention:
- Dr Tim Cantopher: ‘Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong’
A slightly dramatic title, but a wonderfully wise and compassionate book. Easy to read too.
- Matt Haig: ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’
I found it pretty painful to read, but it’s beautiful – and written by someone who clearly understands.
(8) For further help
All sorts of places you can go for further help – including the following:
- Mind Blue Light Programme – https://www.mind.org.uk
- Police Dependents Trust – https://www.pdtrust.org
- Time To Change – https://www.time-to-change.org.uk
- Rethink – https://www.rethink.org
- The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org / Tel: 116 123
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” (Khalil Gibran)