For Mick, it was a buildup of incidents which ultimately became too much.
17th September 2018
“When I signed up when I was 19, I thinkit was to serve the Queen and the crownon something else and something else butno one ever mentioned mental health tome. You know, I was 19.”
In 1976, terms like mental health andwell-being just weren’t part of theconversation and Mick’s motivations forjoining were just like everyone else’s, hewanted a better life.
“I worked on drivingcamps and stuff like that and then Igrown up on a farm and I knew what was abetter life. I knew it was more reliablein terms of an income and I loved everyminute of it.”
Despite his love of the job,problems were starting to arise. Like allofficers, Mick was exposed difficult andconfronting situations on a daily basis. He thought that the solitude of countrypolicing might ease the burden and makeit easier to cope but it didn’t.
“Probablyone of the things – I was unwell then anddidn’t recognise it and I looked at if Iworked by myself then I could deal withthe issues by myself. But it was just, itwas just wrong, it was a fallacy.”
Mickremembers working Highway Patrol inMansfield.
“You’d go to these absolutelyhorrendous jobs and then you get back inthe car and you were hit by yourself. Youknow, it was just you, you’ll one-upthat’s the way we police those days. Ididn’t have to talk to anyone about thejob, I could just finish my shift,go back sign the kit off, go home, deal with whatever, deal with it havethe best as I could.”
So after 30 years ofprotecting the community Mick left thejob, broken and in need of some help. Theonset of post-traumatic stress disorder isdifferent for everyone. For Mick, it was abuildup of incidents which ultimatelybecame too much.
“You know, there’s justit’s that whole bucket effect where youknow the bucket gets filled up to acertain point then it overflows. If youdon’t get that assistance early – thatit’s when that bucket flows over, thenit’s you know you’re coming from behindfor a time.”
Mental illness hasfar-reaching effects, it’s not just apersonal issue – it’s a family issue.
“That’s one of the problems with a mentalillness, unless there’s someone that says – hey, look you know get some treatment,then you just continue on your merry wayand then you end up with these reallybad outcomes. That are they’re not only bad for the individual, they’re bad for afamily.”
Many former police officersstruggle with financial pressures – alcohol and drug dependence and familybreakdowns.
“There’s huge stresses onrelationships you know, and it’ssometimes you know the old cliche wasasked just a job you know, it’s part andparcel but it’s it isn’t that it’s it’sthat whole mental health mental welfarethat is not being addressed.”
But people like Mick are working tochange that. He is one of the founders ofthe retired peer support officer programestablished in 2014 with the aim ofproviding assistance to former officerswho may be suffering with mental illness.
In October this year, Chief CommissionerGraham Ashton and Secretary Wayne gateof the Police Association Victoria willwalk 1,000 kilometres across Victoria toraise money for the program.
“I’ve workedacross someand lots of different chiefcommissioners and lots of differentgovernments of both persuasions and it’sthe first time I’ve seen someoneactually put their hand up and say – we’vedone it and we’ve got to fix it and I youknow to me that’s just incredible.”
Withmore awareness of mental illness therehave been increasing numbers of retiredpolice officers coming forward for help. The $500,000 raised through theHead to Head walk will help to fund moretraining opportunities for the peersupport volunteers who generously donatetheir time to the cause.
“So it’ll support that, it’ll support theone-day training courses, it’ll supportthe professional development.”
Morefunding means more opportunities to helptransform the lives of retired policeofficers who are battling day in and dayout with mental illness.
“Probably thesupport of Graham and the support ofWayne Gatt from the TPA. They’re taking itto the next level and we’re helpingserving, we’re helping the veterans andto me – if you look at that asan outcome that is just been fantastic.
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20th September 2018
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