(This blog contains my own views and opinions)
We are busy working hard to bring changes to culture within the police service, opening up conversations about mental health. This brings challenges and frustrations. ‘Blockers’ as they are affectionately termed. Navigating these blockers is more difficult because the subject is so important; time IS NOT on our side.
One of the local projects I am leading on is intended to:
1) Smash Stigma:
2) Allow people to see that everyone has mental health and anyone can experience a mental health problem and:
3) Spread understanding that it is not just an individuals’ responsibility to take care of their own MH. It is everyone’s responsibility, their managers, their colleagues, family, friends, doctor etc etc.
It is Everyone’s Business.
I did not ask for any sort of budget and I wanted to film local volunteers talking about their lived experience of mental health decline. The idea being everyone locally will know one or more of the volunteers and therefore can relate to them, bringing realisation of the above three points.
Having undergone the process of talking on film I know how cathartic it can be for volunteers. I decided to launch it initially as a small scale pilot, evaluate and refine it for other areas. I was concerned that if it was done as a forcewide project it would lose its impact and effectiveness as an initiative produced by local staff for local staff.
A Sgt who has media training and I worked together interviewing and filming the volunteers so the only cost was the time of those involved. The volunteers are amazing. Their accounts are deeply moving, and incredibly honest. The films have the potential to change attitudes towards mental health and even savelives.
To market these films, and gain buy in and maximum engagement from the Thin Blue Line we needed the right brand. I had previously taken part in an ‘Everyone’s Business’ campaign with the Maternal Mental Health Alliance. I completed market research on the name and found references to it throughout mental health in other campaigns and articles. Early engagement with staff indicated that ‘Everyones Business’ was right, powerful and succinct. It attracted powerful volunteers with the associated ethos. The content and films were approved by the Mind Blue Light Programme comms team as the current experts in emergency services Mental Health.
If you google search ‘Everyone’s Business’ you will find some of following it has been used for:
Mental Health is everyone’s business
Maternal mental health is everyone’s business
Childrens mental health is everyone’s business
Domestic violence is everyone’s business
Safety is everyone’s business
Infection control is everyone’s business
Leadership is everyone’s business
Suicide prevention is everyone’s business
…you get the picture, it’s a popular and effective strap line.
After initial agreement, I was told 6 months ago after the films had been completed that we could not use ‘Everyones Business’ as a strap line. Originally I was told it was because of the maternal mental health alliance campaign, later on I was told it was perceived as bullish. Recently I was told it was a saying used in professional standards.
I have not been provided with any evidence to substantiate these ‘reasons’ or even heard a good argument that any of these are reasons not to use it. Yet there are so many reasons why Everyone’s Business is right.
We are trying to smash stigma and deliver the message that we can no longer walk past The Elephant In The Room. That we have a responsibility. Time To Change is a similarly powerful campaign name and achieves exactly what the team intended. Change NOW. It’s not bullish, it’s strong.
The suggested other name was frankly what would commonly be referred to by police officers as ‘pink and fluffy’. Instead of driving connection and engagement it will achieve the opposite. BUT that’s what we do with mental health isn’t it?! Especially when we haven’t experienced MH issues. We tip toe around the subject a little scared to deal with it directly. A large proportion of us that have been through a Mental Health problem and recovered would agree that people making it their business was the key to our recovery. We know how unhelpful tiptoeing around the subject is. IT PERPETUATES STIGMA.
This isn’t just my opinion. It’s the opinion of millions across the world who know having been on the receiving end of it. Being an empath and despite my frustration, I have concluded that this may be the real issue. The reflex reaction to tiptoe around Mental Health. Or perhaps those that perceive it as bullish are actually finding it challenges their own internal stigma. GOOD. That’s the idea. That’s how we achieve positive change in Mental Health.
I have talked before about my frustrations and the impact on my own mental health, but never given specifics. Now I have.
I was faced with potentially delivering a product I completely believed in but with a brand I absolutely did not. A brand which I believed would set the project up to fail or at best cause it to be less effective. Except I would never do that. I would never set something up with a significant risk of failure.
So I waited 6 months to be provided with a suitable alternative. Which never came.
And the volunteers waited. To have their stories heard.
And the staff waited. Still feeling alone and stigmatised.
Doing the right thing by challenging is difficult, especially in an environment where challenge is still not commonplace. But do the right thing I did. Because that’s what the code of ethics, the NDM and the College of Policing support me to do. It’s Time to change and this change is Everyone’s Business.
After an Action Learning Set I found the validation and support I needed. I decided enough was enough. I decided to launch the campaign on Friday 25th March 2016. It lasted 4 days before it was pulled. The films are no longer available, stigma is no longer reducing at this time as a result of this initiative, and the volunteers stories are not being heard. I 100% stand by the decision I made and would make it again. And again. And again. Until we stop tip toeing around this subject and face it HEAD ON as we should.
Even if it had only reached one person, and caused them to feel less alone, it was worth it. The feedback from the grassroots and some senior managers, indicates it reached many more and is all I need to know that it was the rightthing to do. Here are a couple of the numerous examples:
”I have watched each video, they brought a tear to my eye but also made me smile knowing we are all finally talking about it.”
”Have watched all the interviews… feel energised and enthused to share and spread the word. Really brave members of staff to share and I have no doubt this will help to assist others.”
Feedback has come from different departments and ranks, none of which have raised any concerns. It saddens me that these life changing and potentially lifesaving films are no longer available. It has been noticed that the films are no longer available as the following feedback indicates:
”I can’t believe they pulled the whole thing. I looked at it and thought it was great. Pussyfooting around it… a total lack of understanding. It’s about the message not what it’s called.”
I will be working hard over the next few weeks to achieve a positive outcome by gaining understanding or finding a suitable alternative. At least now it’s higher up on people’s agenda and being talked about!
Thank you to Graham, Matt and Sharon for your patience and providing some of the content in this blog as well as ongoing support and inspiration.