Statement from Victoria Police and Victoria's Police Minister

Regarding handling of mental health and PTSD among officers

Statement from Victoria Police:

Policing can be a tough job. It's high stakes, highly scrutinised and very busy. In serving the community, our employees are often exposed to disturbing and distressing things that the average person rarely sees or experiences.

That is why Victoria Police takes the welfare of its employees very seriously and uses best practice and evidenced-based approaches to deliver welfare services and support state-wide. While we cannot always prevent a police officer’s exposure to trauma, we are working hard to ensure that our employees are prepared and supported to minimise the impact of such events.

Since 2009 we have made a number of improvements in the way that we support our employees.

We commissioned an independent Mental Health Review in 2016 and have been working hard over the past few years to implement all 39 recommendations and improve the mental health and wellbeing of our entire workforce. These recommendations are focussed not only on responding to those in need, but working hard towards prevention and early intervention.

We have significantly increased the staffing of our Police Psychology and Welfare Units to provide confidential services to all employees and their families 24/7. We have rolled out the Safe-T-Net program which is an early intervention wellbeing support system that allows employees and their local managers to track exposure to trauma and stress over time and initiate wellbeing conversations and interventions.

We also piloted an early intervention treatment and recovery trauma program in 2015, which was successful and subsequently ran again in 2017. This program will be offered every year from 2019.

We know that geographical isolation can make accessing services difficult, which is why we are also investing in more EAP services, building an external facing Wellbeing Website and introducing digital e-treatment services which can be accessed by our employees and their families anytime, anywhere. This also includes the development of the equipt wellbeing app, a personal self-help tool that enables police employees and their families to assess, plan and manage their wellbeing over time. The app was upgraded in 2018 to include sleep tools that integrate with shift work rosters.

In addition to the work we are doing for current employees, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton has publicly declared there is a gap with the support services provided to police veterans. Police may leave the job experiencing mental health issues and although we provide some support, we don’t have funding for police veterans.

While we can’t turn back the clock, with the Chief Commissioner’s strong backing we are determined to tackle this issue.

This was evident last year when Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton and Wayne Gatt from The Police Association of Victoria walked 1,000 kilometres across the state as part of the Head to Head fundraising walk.

The walk raised more than $600,000 for the Police Veterans Support Victoria program. The program supports a group of retired police volunteers to assist around 700 mostly former officers experiencing mental health issues.

The purpose of this Head to Head walk was to show that we’re taking a step in the right direction to provide better welfare and mental health support for retired police veterans and raise awareness of the entire issue. Victoria Police wants to create a culture that supports all officers, past and present, to come forward and seek support at any point.

Mental health is a key focus for the Chief Commissioner and while there is still a long way to go, he and the entire organisation is determined to improve the way we support current and former police officers.

Statement from Victoria’s Police Minister, Lisa Neville:

Policing is tough work. Hardworking police officers across Victoria face challenging and traumatic situations every day.

It’s important that officers feel comfortable seeking help and that the right supports are in place.

We know how critical early intervention is to prevent the development of serious mental illness and PTSD – which is why we are putting in place earlier specialised support and services.

We’re also making it easier for every emergency worker to access critical mental health support the moment they need it – with the new WorkCover arrangements to be in place this year.

We’re also going to establish a new Centre of Excellence for Emergency Worker Mental Health to make sure we have the best services and supports in place to help reduce the impact trauma has on our emergency service workers.