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Ill-health retirement can be a long arduous process, which can be isolating and fraught with grief and complex feelings for Police personnel. Police Care UK have, for the past 2 years, been piloting a programme of peer support where a team of experienced volunteers offer their expertise, guidance and care as colleagues navigate the process in real time. The programme has been hugely successful and feedback from those who have accessed the pilot has been positive and welcomed. Following feedback and engagement from our team of peer support volunteers, many of whom have been through ill-health retirement themselves, we designed a programme to further support those going through the process.

In January 2022 we delivered our first wellbeing week for ill-health retirees, in collaboration with Police Treatment Centres in Harrogate. The programme built to focus on reinforcing selfcare, looking forward to a future outside of policing and experiencing new ways of mindfulness and reinvigoration for mental health.

Day one welcomed the group to Harrogate, a peaceful haven nestled in the Yorkshire Dales. The site is steeped in history, the sensory garden is lovely for early morning walks and the new residential build, funded by Police Care UK, is modern and welcoming.

The groups started with reflecting on their careers in policing and considering their personal brand and what life outside of policing may hold for them. This included sharing thoughts on how they perceived each other, which was challenging as they had only just met but also meant that feedback was keenly positioned around positive interactions and casual conversations – on the last morning the team revisited this and again focused on sharing feedback for each other, gone was perception and politeness replaced by humour, friendship and encouragement, there was lots of laughter and the occasional tear as each of them read the teams insights.

Day two started with a walk around Valley Gardens, reflective space to get some fresh air, and to experience nature. The walk was tailored to the slowest of the group so that all who wanted to take part could, those who felt unable to were able to take some free time and reflection time using the facilities at St Andrews. The psychoeducation modules included inputs around stress awareness, resilience, coping strategies and a sleep workshop everyone felt that where they knew somethings it was good to be reminded and that at each session there was something new to learn and consider and take away to make little improvements within their own lives. One of the more challenging workshops posed questions around post policing and reflection on career and next steps, this was a great juncture to share “war stories” within a safe and measured space in a careful and constructive way so that everyone was included, but being mindful of others journeys. Again we revisited this at the end of the week and the team individually reset their personal perceptions about their positive skill sets and opportunities outside of policing. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the week for the attendees was the Bonsai course, delivered by The Happy Shrub and the Art for Wellbeing sessions facilitated by Police Care UK Head of Operations, Maria O’Brien.

When asked for feedback about each course the following quotes stood out:

“I didn’t expect to enjoy it but I loved it.”

“I enjoyed it more than I thought and cant wait to see updates as the trees flourish.”

“It completely reset my mind.”

“Initially I felt really self-conscious about doing the art but I completely immersed myself in it.”

“To say that the art pieces were genius is nothing far from the truth, it was wonderful to see the different interpretations and the joy.”

Throughout the week there was plenty of free time and access to Yoga, a relaxation class (one or two may have had a little snore!) and a visit to the beautiful RHS Harlow Carr and luckily the weather held out all week. Everyone found that having time and space to enjoy being outside was thought provoking, tranquil and certainly as we review the course for its delivery we will be making sure that those who can and want to spend time in nature and outdoors have plenty of time to explore, and spend some time reflecting on themselves without the abstractions of daily life.

For me, watching the group ease as they became more comfortable with each other and each persons personal growth over the programme was immensely rewarding. Whilst some of the group started shy, nervous, introspective and a little mistrusting, most left the week uplifted, feeling more confident but most importantly having made new friends, feeling valued, part of a new team / group and ready for the new challenges of civilian life:

“Overall It was a really good week, educational, positive , interesting activities , great people, good support, tools to assist with moving forward”

“The biggest takeaway from the week apart from my Bonsai is, I now know I have people I can talk to, that have experienced similar, that are now my friends. It has been difficult talking to friends/family who haven’t been through similar and so find it hard to understand.

“I have learnt a lot about myself because of this week and sessions were informative, relevant and interesting and the course, I thought, was a huge success”

All the attendees felt proud of the growth that they all achieved through the week, doing things they never thought that they would and learning to embrace innovative concepts and explore their own meaning and life and how they can continue to have value and help others outside of working in Policing.

If you would like to support Police Care UK and continue to enable us to provide our vital services to those harmed through their policing role, you can become a Friend of Police Care UK or make a one off donation to us through our website.

 

 

 

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