Mental Health is a difficult subject in the world of policing. Officers and staff are often reluctant to seek support due to perceived weakness and a potential threat to careers.
During a challenging period in her life, Sgt Laura Gibson discovered how reading had helped improve her wellbeing. Following her experience, she wanted to ensure other officers and staff were better informed about their own welfare.
“Reading made me feel less alone and gave me a better understanding of my illness”, Laura said,
“I thought that it could be another way for colleagues to support themselves”.
New research by the Reading Agency suggested that the activity of reading reduces depression, improves sleeping patterns and increases empathy for others. Additionally, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has enforced the importance of self-help books in developing individual knowledge and preventative strategies.
Following a grant from Police Care UK, the first wellbeing service was established within the main library of Police Scotland headquarters Tulliallan. Accessible to officers and staff force-wide, the service houses a series of accredited books and publications on mental health and self-care.
The project started with books that were recommended by Reading Well – an organisation promoting personal management of mental health through wider reading – but has since developed to include additional material related to wellbeing. Topics now cover a range of issues that may affect life in or out of work; such as dealing with stress and anxiety, physical fitness, the menopause, nutrition and dementia in a parent.
The service is intended to give officers and staff more control, and act as an alternative form of support for those reluctant to go through official channels. The wellbeing service was launched in conjunction with Time-to-Talk Day in February, and so-far has proved extremely positive.
The project now plans to promote reading on a wider level by developing a “mood-boosting” section, also influenced by Reading Well. This would offer a range of uplifting fiction novels and poems that improve wellbeing and aid relaxation. Users would also be encouraged, when appropriate, to leave a review of books to stimulate debate. Examples of authors they plan to feature include Matt Haig and Mitch Absolom.
“I think reading can be a great way to switch off from the world” concludes Laura.
“It helps people with relaxation and encourages further creativity. Getting people to talk about reading for pleasure has done a lot for wellbeing (of officers and staff) in itself”.