Kerry Seymour on scheme to tackle police staff mental health

AROUND 70 per cent of police officers have reported mental health issues and more than half required therapy, a survey concludes.

Police Care, the charity for serving and veteran police officers and staff, also found many did not get help and went to work as usual.

It costs the UK millions of pounds and impacts on policing as staff take time off for stress, anxiety or depression – or are simply not as productive.

A pilot scheme using Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH) – focusing on the solution rather than the problem – has helped those taking part to recover.

Kerry Seymour, from Weston, is a lead writer on the pilot scheme report which was sponsored by Inspired to Change using modern clinically proven techniques.

Kerry, who has also carried out research and clinical governance in the NHS and voluntary sector, said: “The treatment has produced incredible results for the police force, increasing their wellbeing and resilience. In turn, this means they can better serve their community.”

SFH takes the best from a range of therapies – including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Neuro-Linguistic Processing.

The report found everyone who completed the treatment in the pilot got better – and nearly 80 per cent no longer showed symptoms of anxiety and depression.

There was also over 80 per cent increase in their life wellness score and more than 90 per cent reported improved sleep.

Following treatment staff members said they could better maintain perspective, cope with challenges, were calmer and had improved sleep.

It not only helped participants in their professional life, but many said it improved relationships too.

Dr Emily Barney, a clinical psychologist who has worked with the NHS and in mental health services for nearly 20 years, is a lead writer on a paper on SFH effectiveness.

She said: “The therapy led to a significant reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms, which includes disturbed sleep, hyper vigilance, self-medicating and anger issues.”

The fear of appearing weak or unable to cope, along with a belief it may harm their careers, stops many in the police force from seeking help.

But SFH does not delve into a client’s past and can be used for a range of issues, the most common being anxiety, as well as depression, low confidence, OCD and PTSD.

Dr Barney, who is also a registered psychotherapist and hypnotherapist with special interest in treating complex trauma, said: “Most mental health issues are linked to anxiety.

“SFH works for a range of conditions and has the benefit of being a safe, structured and even an enjoyable process.”

Demands of the role can take their toll and officers are more frequently exposed to traumatic events – from road traffic collisions to murders – and are more likely to experience PTSD compared to people in other jobs.

Yet the majority were unaware they had PTSD – though it impacts on their health ability and to function

Those who took part in the trial no longer exhibited symptoms of PTSD, which can range from self-harm to self-medication.

Gary Johannes, a Falklands veteran, has witnessed first-hand the effects of PTSD.

The clinical hypnotherapist and lecturer from Inspired to Change said: “Working in an emergency service is a rewarding and invaluable role, but it is undoubtedly challenging.

“Left untreated, PTSD can make it difficult for people to hold down jobs or relationships. It can be damaging, not just to the individual concerned, but their family.

“While we cannot remove the stresses and trauma they face on a regular basis, we can provide them with the tools to manage it effectively and long term.”