Hope for peer support
IT CAN be difficult for those whose role is helping others to ask for a helping hand themselves.
With up to 40 Tweed/Byron police officers believed to be away on sick leave, many suffering from post traumatic stress and other work-related ailments, there is a renewed push for more support networks to help officers in the firing line.
Questions have been raised about support services for officers across the state, with Tweed officers forced to travel as far as Wollongong to access support groups.
Co-founder of national police peer-support network Blue Hope, Andrew Ayres, aims to expand its services into the region.
Mr Ayers, a Queensland police officer who co-founded Blue Hope with a colleague in September 2014 after the suicide of a fellow officer and good friend, said the organisation was setting up a peer support group in Brunswick Heads soon.
He said local officers were forced to attend an event in Wollongong, south of Sydney, two weeks ago, with no closer support available.
“I ran a peer support group in Wollongong and we had people from the Tweed travel down to that,” he said.
“We have clients from Tweed/Byron LAC at the moment. We’re getting a peer group set up at Brunswick Heads.”
He said some officers chose the independent organisation as they were wary of internal support services for fear of repercussion.
“A lot of (officers) are resistant to access internal services for fear of the stigma,” Mr Ayres said.
“There’s anecdotal evidence that police careers have been halted.”
With Blue Hope, current officers can access peer-to-peer support, as well as a psychiatrist. This can be anonymous and there’s no direct link with the organisation.
“I’m personally aware of several members who have felt isolated because of the level of support they’ve received when they sought help for mental health issues,” he said.
He said Blue Hope supported and encouraged access to internal support services.
Tweed/Byron LAC Superintendent Wayne Starling said NSW Police had “come a long way” in looking after the needs of officers.