Dorset Police is the territorial police force responsible for policing the county of Dorset in the south-west of England. The police force area covers 1,024 square miles with approximately 140 miles of coastline including a section of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. Around 0.8 million people live in a predominantly rural setting. The area has a number of distinct urban areas, including the towns of Bournemouth, Poole, Weymouth and Dorchester. The resident population is increased by university students and the significant numbers who visit, socialise in or travel through the county each year.
As a police service we are committed to working with our partners to identify vulnerable people in our communities and ensure an appropriate response tailored to their needs is provided. Over the last two years we have been developing our response to policing mental health in the community and our staff wellbeing program. Through our Clinical Commissioning Group we intend to reduce suicides in Dorset through promoting “Life’s worth living”.
How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?
Dorset Police is encouraging our staff to speak more openly about mental health and wellbeing whilst providing a positive response to mental health in our communities.
Through our neighbourhood policing teams we identify vulnerable individuals and work with partners through a multi-agency risk management process to address their needs and safeguarding.
Though a strong partnership we provide phone support to front line officers which allows mental health practitioners to advise on patient care if the individual is or has been known to local mental health services, we also provide dedicated support in our custody centres which ensures that all persons arrested are assessed by a health worker with any issues identified and addressed.
In October 2019 we intend to provide all front line officers and staff with additional training in responding to mental health in our communities and have an aspiration by 2020 to deliver mental health first aid training annually giving it parity of esteem with physical first aid training.
We are currently advertising for mental wellbeing peer support volunteers to assist officers and staff to address their own wellbeing. This is in addition to developing a welfare package and post incident management process to identify the impact and trauma of daily policing demands on our staff.
What are your current priorities?
The Force currently has three priorities:
– Safeguarding the vulnerable in our communities
– Responding to demand
– Wellbeing of officers and staff
We have recently developed our mental health and suicide prevention policies, these are underpinned by the College of Policing vulnerability training which has been provided to all officers and forms part of our ongoing organisational understanding and commitment to responding positively to vulnerable people in our communities.
Working closely with our partners we have a dedicated Mental Health Coordinator who ensures that officers and staff have the appropriate advice and guidance in order to respond well to people in crisis. This includes access to Street Triage and Liaison and Diversion in custody. The role also highlights some of the excellent services available to the public including the Retreats in Bournemouth and Dorchester which provide a safe place to access support and advice.
Officers and Staff routinely make referrals to our multi agency safeguarding hub to allow information to be shared with partner agencies to provide an informed coordinated response.
Our dedicated Wellbeing Manager also works closely with our partners to provide support to our officers and staff. We recognise that policing whilst rewarding is challenging; officers and staff are exposed to traumatic incidents or events on a daily basis. We therefore consider not just the incident but the accumulative impact of daily policing on individuals. We recognise a healthy supported workforce provides a healthy supportive response to the public in times of need.
What challenges are you currently facing?
We do not currently understand the full extent of the issue. Whilst there is historical data on the number of suicides, we know these are not a reliable indicator of the problem and do not include self-harm or attempted suicide.
With significant competing demand and reducing resources our ability to respond to the issue is limited and we are reliant on our partners for support. They are equally stretched and there isn’t the provision in the community to meet the needs of the individuals. Whilst this is an improving picture it isn’t consistent.
How we deal with bereavement needs to be improved, most of the lived experiences inform us the aftercare from all agencies could be better.