Mental Struggles Of Overstretched Police Staff
I started working for the Police in 2007 and worked in a few different departments before eventually ending up working as a casebuilder in the Safeguarding Unit preparing court cases for rape and serious sexual offences against adults and children. The files were predominantly sexual offences against children.
I was excited about my new job – I had studied Psychology at University and my research into child sexual abuse had been published by one of the top Psychology journals. I thought I would be ok with the job as I had a bit of background knowledge in the field. I didn’t see PTSD coming until it hit me full whack.
I wasn’t given much training at all – I already knew how to use the systems so it was just a case of learning how to prepare files and what to do with disclosure etc. I wasn’t given any official training at all: I spent a couple of months doing two days a week working with my job share partner. So perhaps 10-12 days sat with a colleague helping her prepare files. She had only been in the role around 18 months, but did her best to explain it all to me. I can’t fault her as she was fab and did her best to help me as much as possible. It really was a case of being thrown in at the deep end as around 6 months after I started she moved on and I ended up doing the full time job in two days a week. I believe that this added stress was when my problems began. I offered to work full time, but the force didn’t give me the job for two months, so in this time I was trying to fit a full time workload into two days a week. Add this to the fact that I hadn’t been given any proper training = much stress and worry. I began to show physical symptoms of stress – I was run down and poorly all the time. My colleagues were concerned about me, but I didn’t really know where to turn to – I didn’t have a dedicated supervisor and my inspector didn’t even know I was part of his team until the Prosecution team supervisor voiced her concerns to him. I blame myself really though as I should have spoken up but I was scared about what people would think. So I just plodded on and eventually started working full time.
The stress got worse and the nightmares began. I constantly worried that I would miss something in a file and that the Defendant would get out and re-offend. I blamed myself when a trial ended up with a not guilty result or if a victim retracted their statement. I had nightmares with all the cases rolled into one – Paedophiles were entering my house to get my children. I dreamt that one got in and stabbed my children to death whilst I was trying to fight them off. A week later I was making my son’s bed and flapped the duvet causing a flashback in which I saw him there stabbed to death in a pool of blood. My head was mashed and I couldn’t concentrate. I went into work one day and I couldn’t function – I just cried and cried and cried. A colleague went and got a Sergeant and I ended up in a meeting with my Inspector. I told them everything and was told to take some leave, have an holiday and chill out. So I did. I had two weeks off.
My first day back I sat down at my desk and saw my workload and burst into tears. I couldn’t cope any more. The force’s response was to assign me a Sergeant and refer me to OHU. In the meantime I went to my GP who gave me anti-depressants and a sick note. OHU said it seemed like I had PTSD and sent me to see the force Psychologist. He was horrific. He was so patronising – he told me that I had two full time jobs: being a casebuilder and being a mum. He didn’t know anything about my life at home, didn’t ask me many questions at all and said that if I reduce my hours to part time then I would be able to continue in my current role as it wasn’t PTSD - it was that I couldn’t work full time and be a mum as well. (never mind that my husband does as much at home as I do!) I ended up stopping seeing him as he was just making me worse. I was doubting myself so took my husband to my final appointment with him and he said that I wasn’t wrong.
I was off sick for 8 weeks. My Sergeant came to see me a couple of times and kept in touch via text. At around 5 weeks off she arranged to come up for a coffee. The evening before I got a text from her – she was bringing HR with her. They just wanted to check I was OK. I felt OK with this and agreed for them to come. The next day they arrived and HR started. She said she had discussed me with the senior management team and as I had already been redeployed once they would not do that again. She whipped out a role profile for a current job vacancy and said that they wanted me to apply for that job. She would come see me Friday to help me with it if I wanted. I expressed concern that I was not of sound mind to be making a decision like that and I needed to try get better first. She reassured me that they weren’t trying to push me out of my job and that they were only trying to help me. My Sergeant seemed a bit shocked by this, I don’t think she knew what was going to be said. HR then went on to say that my sick note ran out in 3 weeks and they would like me back at work as when I had been off sick before I had felt low being at home all the time. She said this a couple of times. When they left I just cried and cried. I wanted to be at work. I wanted to be able to function. I took a pair of nail scissors and scratched my leg in one place until it bled. I hated myself for being like this. For being so messed up. Perhaps it would be better if I wasn’t around anymore.
I went back to work 3 weeks later. Still in a very dark place, but feeling as though I had no choice. I just needed to get on with it. I was put under the Prosecution team manager and she looked out for me. I felt happier at work, but the PTSD was still very bad. Still having anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, couldn’t function properly but scared to not be at work. I couldn’t concentrate so was given very basic files to prepare. HR told my Sergeant to refer me to OHU again as I wasn’t fulfilling my role profile. I spoke to HR on the phone about my concerns regards this and she laughed at me and said they weren’t trying to trick me. I felt even more stupid, isolated and low.
I referred myself to counselling through the NHS and started to see a wonderful lady. I thought she would help me and felt really positive only to be told that my issues are too complex for the counselling service to deal with and they would have to refer me to the Psychology Services. I am currently awaiting an appointment with them to see if they can help me. In the meantime I’m still having nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks and I can’t concentrate. My head feels like mush and every day is a battle just to get through it without wanting to harm myself. I don’t feel like I can go on like this, but I don’t know what else to do. I have an appointment with OHU next week to see what they say, but right now I regret choosing my career path. I have no trust in the organisation at all and the only thing keeping me going at work is my wonderful team and manager who have all been amazingly supportive.