Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has praised police officers and staff together with those in the NHS and other front line workers, during Mental Health Awareness Week for showing such dedication and resilience at a time of national crisis.
Mental Health Awareness Week, running between 18 and 24 May this year, is focussing on kindness and how in an emergency causing fear, there is still a sense of community, support and hope. Since the lockdown was introduced and those who were classed as vulnerable were advised to self-isolate, blue light services and communities across the county have been showing exactly such kindness and community spirit to help others through the pandemic.
“It’s so vitally important for those who are living alone or generally anxious about the prospect of infection that this emergency brings with it, let alone those with pre-existing conditions around anxiety disorders and other mental health issues, to get the sense that they are not dealing with this solo. You can’t walk down a street in Bedfordshire without seeing the rainbow pictures in the windows, nearby Renhold village is absolutely typical in altering the village sign to reflect a thank you to the NHS workers who are dealing with both mental and physical health support and I don’t know anyone who isn’t happy to take part in the clap for carers every Thursday night. We are all so grateful to them and to police officers and staff and all essential workers for helping us through this.
“All of these things are providing support and an enhanced sense of community which I know is so appreciated by our own front line and that in our hospital and care system but I’m sure also helps every single Bedfordshire resident.
“Through my office we have worked extremely closely with Bedfordshire Police and mental health service providers within the NHS to provide the support of named police officers and mental health nurses to individuals who experience mental health crisis most often in our county and mental health nurses in both the Force Control Room (also known as the Force Contact Centre) and the Signpost victim care hub to help guide the call handlers and front line officers as to the specific needs of those experiencing mental illness,” said Commissioner Holloway.
Last year (August 2019), the Commissioner funded the Serenity Integrated Mentoring (SIM) service at Bedfordshire Police which provides nominated officers and mental health workers for the most frequent users of emergency services, often as a result of high risk mental health related issues which may result in them needing to be safeguarded and admitted to hospital for psychiatric assessments.
As an example, the SIM service has supported 5 service users, who presented on many occasions to A & E departments, with multiple police deployments and previous detentions under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act, involving repeated ambulance deployments and referrals to mental health services with long standing histories of self-harm, overdoses, drug and alcohol misuse and attempted suicides. These five people now represent positive outcomes with service users supported and living happier and more stable lives in the community, not calling emergency services or using alcohol.
“I’m particularly proud to have been able to help develop and deliver improved services for those with mental health issues and a greater understanding of those experiencing such issues is now deeply embedded in the Force. Over the weekend, for example, while responding to a concern for welfare call from a person experiencing a crisis, a Bedfordshire Police radio handler in the Force Contact Centre kept them talking on the phone for over an hour, which gave emergency services enough time to find their location and safeguard them,” said the PCC.
The Mental Health Foundation, which runs Mental Health Awareness Week, has also this year launched a new challenge, encouraging people to be kind to themselves and be active for 30 minutes a day to help improve their mental wellbeing. To support this, The James Campbell Collective, a YouTube channel for 10 to 25-year-olds was launched by the PCC earlier this month and uploads activities every weekday to encourage people to follow along at home. The James Campbell Collective can be accessed at www.youtube.com/channel/UCBBGBdJgnvMHd25wW7aqVUQ.
“Every one of us is finding it a struggle at times to be at home and unable to see our friends and wider family. This is so much worse for those who are young and full of energy or who need a distraction from dark thoughts or those who seek to track them down to cause harm by exploiting them online. The James Campbell Collective, led by a 20 year-old personal trainer and competitive bodybuilder, can help with all of this,” said PCC Holloway.
For victims of crime who may be experiencing difficulties, Signpost is a service which was launched by the PCC in 2018, which can offer help and support from organisations and charities to ensure those who are in need of support are directed to the right services. Signpost can be accessed online at www.signpostforbedfordshire.com or via Freephone on 0800 0282 887. The service is open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday 9am to 5pm.