Emergency workers under strain: Police treatment centre plans to build new 'wellbeing wing' as demand soars

The Police Treatment Centres, including one in Harrogate, are treating more and more officers for mental health issues. Photo: Tim Hardy.
The Police Treatment Centres, including one in Harrogate, are treating more and more officers for mental health issues. Photo: Tim Hardy.

DEMAND for mental health support for police officers is growing so quickly at a national treatment centre, it is planning to build a specialist £3m wellbeing wing at its North Yorkshire site.

The Police Treatment Centres, with sites in Harrogate and Scotland, traditionally offered physiotherapy for serving or retired police officers from across the UK but began a programme for stress, anxiety and depression about three years ago.

The St Andrews police treatment centre in Harrogate has a sensory garden where people can try mindfulness techniques. Photo: Sam Oakes.

The St Andrews police treatment centre in Harrogate has a sensory garden where people can try mindfulness techniques. Photo: Sam Oakes.

Now it is using a £1.5m Government grant to part-fund the new wing at the Harrogate site after seeing demand soar.

Fran Greenwood, of the charity, said 781 police officers attended one of their two-week psychological wellbeing programmes last year, a 12 per cent rise on the year before.

She said this was partly due to the breaking down of stigma around mental health, saying in years gone by, police officers might have asked for treatment for a bad back and only admitted to having mental health problems once they arrived.

“The programe we run is preventative, it is not a crisis centre. It is about preventing them getting to the point of breaking,” she said.

Counselling is one of the services on offer at the Police Treatment Centre in Harrogate. Photo: Tim Hardy.

Counselling is one of the services on offer at the Police Treatment Centre in Harrogate. Photo: Tim Hardy.

“The feedback we have had since we started has been absolutely fantastic.

“We run it in a group setting and that was one of the biggest concerns we had, how these groups would come together.

“But they find it really helpful, realising other people are in a similar position.”

Mrs Greenwood said having to deal with a big trauma during police work can often lead to someone seeking help, but it wasn’t always the trigger.

She said: “It’s not always such a big thing like that, it can be a build-up of lots of little things and then it can be something really silly that sets the whole thing off.

“They could have been to a traumatic event, then some time later burnt their dinner.”

The St Andrews centre at Harrogate currently has rooms where they can teach coping and relaxation techniques as well as offering counselling, massage, aromatherapy and nutrition exercises.

They also have a sensory garden with a fountain, fragrant plants and a variety of textures which can be used in mindfulness practices.

Mrs Greenwood said: “You can imagine the typical police officer being told they are going to have a massage, but when they have it they absolutely love it and it helps them relax.

“It is probably the first time in 30-odd years they have taken some time for themselves.”

The new wing will expand this facility, with a planning application now in and building work due to start next year.

The £1.5m grant is from a Government pot raised through fines on the banking sector after the Libor rate-fixing scandal.

In 2012, the Treasury announced that the proceeds from these banking fines would be used to support armed forces and emergency services charities and other related good causes “that represent those that demonstrate the very best of values”.