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Addiction and mental health workshops educate officers on how to support vulnerable people

9 Aug 2019
  • The workshops educate officers on how to best interact with people fighting addiction and mental health issues.

  • They are supported by guest speaker Nick Conn, a former Metropolitan Police officer and cocaine addict.

  • So far, they have delivered three workshops in both Watford and Three Rivers with the most recent being on Wednesday 7 August.

A sergeant and a member of police staff have joined forces to create a workshop educating officers on how to best interact with people fighting addiction and mental health issues.

Sergeant Stephen Bell and Neighbourhood Watch & OWL* administrator Philip Waine – who is a trained psychotherapist – are delivering the two-hour workshops with the help of guest speaker Nick Conn, a former Metropolitan Police officer and cocaine addict.

So far, they have delivered three workshops in both Watford and Three Rivers with the most recent being on Wednesday 7 August.

Sergeant Stephen Bell, from the Three Rivers Intervention team, said: “I’ve always had a passion for wellbeing but since experiencing a traumatic incident myself, I decided to undergo external training in order to understand personal performance and psychotherapy through neuro-linguistic programming and I became a mental health first aider.

“So when I was in the office one day and overheard Phil talking, I thought ‘we can do something that really will make a difference’.

“I have been in the job for 20 years and in that time, I have seen some exchanges between officers and those with mental health and drug addiction issues that could have definitely been more positive.

“New recruits only get 16 weeks’ training and while they cover as much as they can, Phil and I feel there is more to be done around people who we come into contact with on a regular basis that are battling addiction and mental health issues.

“This is becoming more of a challenge in the present day than it has been previously, so we need to adapt and change our training to be in line with that.”

The workshops consist of a question and answer style delivery to get officers thinking about how they view those with mental health issues and addictions. They also show a video where Nick explains what his life was like at the height of his cocaine addiction, and his journey to getting well.

Phil Waine, who has been a qualified psychotherapist since 2010, said: “We hope that those who attend the workshops come away feeling they have been given the tools they need to have positive and impactful conversations with those they come into contact with while out on shift.

“Nick’s story is one that we find really resonates with officers because he has seen it from both sides. He’s worn the uniform but he’s also seen the world through an addict’s eyes.

“Ultimately we want to be equipping officers with the information they need to help those who are struggling. We need them to be aware of the correct referrals to make in order for those vulnerable people to recover and live a happier, healthier life.”

Sergeant Bell says the workshops encourage a two-way conversation around the issues and enables officers to challenge their perceptions. Both he and Phil have already received positive feedback from their pilot.

One attendee said: “I think the concept of the training as a whole is an eight or nine out of 10. I never normally reply to emails asking for feedback however I think the basis of this training is really good, and even after I’ve been home I have thought about what you’ve said.”

 

The workshops have been provided to Watford and Three Rivers officers as part of their regular training programme.

 

However once they have completed their fifth workshop, Stephen and Phil will review the feedback and are hoping to be able to roll out the programme to the rest of the Constabulary.

 

You can find out more about Nick’s work at www.help4addiction.co.uk and on Instagram @dadinrecovery

*OWL is short for Online Watch Link, which is a communication system which means those who sign up receive regular local policing updates and alerts from their Safer Neighbourhood Team via email. You can find out more and sign up here: www.owl.co.uk/herts

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