Police Association of Victoria proposes provisional approval model for mental health injury claims

Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt.
Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt.

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THE Police Association of Victoria is seeking to expedite help available to members who sustain a mental health injury. 

Its efforts come after two police officers last month took their own lives, including Wangaratta “lovable larrikin”, Leading Senior Constable Gavin Frew. 

Association secretary Wayne Gatt said it was important members got help the second they put their hands up and said it was needed. 

“What we’re hoping to achieve is a system of provisional approval,” he said.

The proposal would see members provided with support and treatment for a limited period of time, before being called on to establish whether or not the injury was related to policing.

Under the existing system, members are required to prove their injury is work-related during the initial stages of the process.

“It doesn’t encourage help-seeking behaviour,” Mr Gatt said.

He said the nature of policing made it likely mental health injuries were related, directly or indirectly, to work.

Police officers are four to six times more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder than a member of the general public, the association secretary said.

Delays in assistance could affect the member’s capacity to return to active duty.

“With proper support, early intervention and appropriate assistance time people can return to work at full capacity,” Mr Gatt said. 

“It’s not a career-ending injury… we owe them that much.”

The police association is in dialogue with the state government about the proposal.

U.S. behavioural scientist and former police officer Dr Kevin Gilmartin addresses about 300 police members in Bendigo.

U.S. behavioural scientist and former police officer Dr Kevin Gilmartin addresses about 300 police members in Bendigo.

Leading Senior Constable Gavin Frew’s long-time friend Anthony Hoffmann told those gathered at the officer’s funeral about the many good times he had with Leading Senior Constable Frew, but said things had to change when it came to dealing with PTSD.

“Over the years we’d always get together and trade some war stories - some funny, some not so funny - but we’d never talk about how these moments affected us, I guess mainly because silently we did not want to appear weak,” he said. 

“This is wrong and we need to change this attitude

“If there’s one thing we can and should take away from this tragedy, it’s that we need to change this macho culture and to learn to talk and to ask for help when we need it, otherwise we’ll needlessly lose more sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters - enough is enough.”

Daughter Kaycee Frew said her father was her best friend.

BELOVED: Leading Senior Constable Gavin Frew

BELOVED: Leading Senior Constable Gavin Frew

“He was a loving husband, an amazing father and a lovable idiot to all,” she said.

“His many years of service in the Victoria police brought joy to the people who worked with him - the hole left in our lives is deep and painful.”

Sunday marked the start of Mental Health Week – an initiative aimed at engaging and educating people about mental health.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or online here.

More to come.