Security officers are at a higher risk of experiencing potentially traumatic incidences and, as a result, at higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is estimated to affect about one in three people who experience a disturbing event. Even without developing PTSD, the impact of stress, especially chronic stress, leads to higher burnout rates and can have significant and even debilitating impacts on long-term physical and mental health.

“Sadly, there is still a stigma in society around asking for support with mental health, especially among men.”

It is clearly important that support is available for stress, but should it be compulsory? The research suggests not. Certain forms of emotional support, which may involve ruminating on the situation, can make the impacts worse for some sufferers. Instead, it is vital to have experts on hand for sufferers to choose to reach out to.

The availability of independent and easily accessible experts is an essential resource for those who wish to speak to someone. Sadly, there is still a stigma in society around asking for support with mental health, especially among men. While an organisation may hold no stigma, those who need help may have their own unconscious bias which prevents them from seeking support. Normalising mental healthcare as a part of company culture is a key means of ensuring that all members of staff stay healthy and have the support they need.

Caring for mental health Having independent advice available is a clear and necessary way of supporting mental health. This might come in the form of an in-house advisor or an open advice line. Specialists need to be available to talk about both work and personal issues as the two naturally blend into one another. Advice should be provided by specialists able to follow up and escalate issues raised if need be, by directing employees to sources of more involved help such as counselling.

Wellbeing and mental support need to be a part of the culture of an organisation, rather than available for those who go out of their way to seek it. As well as the importance of having professional help available, research has revealed the importance of social help that is not directly related to the event. This ‘social help’ comes in the form of being invited to relaxing activities.

Those under high stress or with PTSD can withdraw from social contact, so it is especially important to ensure that there is relaxed social time available for employees.

Comfortable, informal environments such as group meals, team days, and activities are a great way for sometimes disparate teams to check in with one another and talk in a stress-free space.

Mental health first aid is becoming common among companies, and having individuals with knowledge and empathy within the workforce is just as important as offering access to independent specialists. A workforce is a community, and employees who work with one another on a daily basis are in a position to recognise unusual behaviour which might be a sign that a colleague is struggling.

Not just at work Difficulties outside of work will impact employees’ working lives and vice versa. It’s important to understand that even in high pressure jobs, offering help for personal stressors is just as important as offering help for work-related issues.

One thing that blurs the line between work and home life is finances. Schemes such as allowing staff to access a proportion of their wage in advance of payday can make a huge difference. This process, which we run through WageStream, ensures that wages can be accessed as soon as they are earned and can be an invaluable lifeline when one-off payments arise. Unexpected costs can be covered without the need for a loan, which will gather interest. Empowering members of staff in this way can be a lifeline in times of financial difficulty.

Sadly, other personal issues are not all dealt with so simply. Illness in the family has no quick fix but that doesn’t mean the workplace community cannot provide support. We’re working to address this through Amulet’s Community Committee. This committee is open to employees at any level within the company to raise issues that matter to them and to work as a community to support their local area. Through this initiative, employees have come together to support, raise money, and raise awareness for causes that are important to them. There are few things which more powerfully create an inclusive and supportive environment than coming together to support causes that matter to one another.

People are multifaceted, and caring for mental and physical wellbeing will always be a complex process. Formal processes for dealing with mental health issues can be both powerful and important but their reach will always be limited if an organisation doesn’t create a culture in which caring for mental health is a priority. Small changes, such as coming together to talk, can make a huge difference to the wellbeing of employees and, in turn, the health of an organisation as an integrated community.

The security industry will continue to require skilled officers capable of dealing with volatile and high-risk incidences. With mental health issues impacting one in three of the population, security officers will not go unaffected. A strong wellbeing plan which accounts for varied and complex needs is a central part of supporting the officers that keep up safe, and it’s up to security companies to implement those plans effectively. TOMORROW’S FM | 55

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