Immediate support crucial

It’s not cheap and it isn’t easy. But the tragedy of it all is if you don’t talk, it could have terrible consequences.

That’s the dilemma Anthony Hoffman was left to sadly contemplate after his good mate Gavin Frew died.

The popular leading senior constable from Wangaratta recently took his own life, causing Mr Hoffman to take stock of their regular chats.

They would, he told mourners at the funeral, meet up and have chats, swap those “war stories” from the job.

But Mr Hoffman’s concern is that this skimmed the surface; that if they had been able to talk about the psychological toll, perhaps his friend might have been able to find a way other than suicide.

As he said, with great poignancy: “ …  we’d never talk about how these moments affected us, I guess mainly because silently we did not want to appear weak. This is wrong and we need to change this attitude.”

Again, it is part of the dilemma and great distress encompassed in mental health issues that this is not such an easy thing to do.

It takes great courage for anyone to admit they are struggling, even for those who you might think would be better placed to do so.

Our police members certainly fit into that category given that so much of their job is about being open to the dislocation of others’ lives.

But as rewarding a career it can be, it can be extremely tough. And so again that makes talking about issues, even with colleagues who are also considered close friends, so difficult. The consequences of not doing so can be deadly.

It is clear though that knowing how to address mental health issues, for both the person suffering and their colleagues and superiors, is a crucial part of the skill set needed for the job.

That is why the latest move by the Police Association of Victoria is so welcome.

The association has a simple aim – to make sure its members get help. The priority would be to provide immediate support and treatment, to ensure that officer’s welfare is addressed without haste.

Association secretary Wayne Gatt cited some sobering statistics to demonstrate the importance of taking action; that police officers are four to six times more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder than a member of the general public.

That is more than reason enough to make this work.