Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton commissioned the report. Photo: Justin McManus Police Minister Lisa Neville says the government is committed to helping police deal better with mental health in its ranks. Photo: Eddie Jim
‘Suck it up’ culture has created a mental health crisis in Victoria Police.
The state government is “100 per cent behind” Victoria Police’s commitment to change a culture that has destroyed the mental health of its officers, the police minister says.
A damning review released on Tuesday found the macho attitude in the force is doing more mental health damage to some officers than the traumatic events they attend.
One of the 450 police who contributed to the report spoke about over-hearing two officers talking to each other and providing informal support after the suicide of a colleague two days earlier.
“A sergeant walked by, paused and said to them, ‘Do you want to be f—ing social workers or police officers?’ ” the officer wrote.
Newly-minted Police Minister Lisa Neville called the report “fearless”.
“We are 100 per cent behind Victoria Police in implementing the recommendations in the report,” Ms Neville said.
Ms Neville, who took over from Wade Noonan after he stood aside for mental health reasons, said the report was also an important step forward for the broader community.
The report, commissioned by Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton after the suicide of a policewoman at work last October, calls for the roll-out of education programs, particularly for leaders in the force.
It also called for the establishment of a Department of Veteran Affairs-style organisation for former police and the urgent expansion of the internal psychology unit.
Mr Ashton said resourcing all 39 recommendations was the highest priority, though the dollar figure on it was not yet clear.
“It’s not going to be cheap,” he said.
“The priority is to fund it. It’s an extremely high priority.
“The amount of money this is going to cost is nothing compared to the damage that exists within the organisation.” Proud to be releasing landmark report into Mental Health to better support our people @VictoriaPolicepic.twitter苏州美甲美睫培训学校/2FTviDSGxq— Graham Ashton (@GrahamAshtonCCP) May 31, 2016
But the greatest challenges, the police union says, will be removing the stigma, and force command winning back the trust of its members.
“This has put a blowtorch on leadership and management and culture within,” Police Association secretary Ron Iddles said.
The review found the fear among some police that asking for help would hurt their career was “well justified”, with officers missing out on promotions and being taken off operational duties.
“They’re suffering because currently a lot of members don’t trust the managers,” Mr Iddles said.
The damage the WorkCover scheme – which asks officers to prove their mental illness – was causing to police was also highlighted in the review,.
Commander Shane Cole, the head of the force’s health and safety division, said the scheme is not set up for mental health claims.
“We need the scheme to make it easier for people with mental health issues to get a claim up. We need the claims process to be simpler, we need a panel of experts who are really good at diagnosing the right mental health issues, the right treatment and assisting them to return to work,” Mr Cole said.
Mr Iddles said the scheme needed to be changed to align with NSW police, where the insurer accepts the psychological claim straight off so an officer is treated sooner.
“Or we move to reverse onus where if you submit a claim, the onus is on Victoria Police or the insurer to say work didn’t cause it,” he said.
Full version of the Victoria Police Mental Health Review.
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