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Stressed officers urged to try mindfulness on the web


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Officers worried about job pressures are being offered a free mindfulness course in the form of 30-minute online tutorials.

Stressed officers urged to try mindfulness on the web


Date - 5th November 2019
By - Chris Smith


The College of Policing has launched Mindfit Cop, an eight week series of 30-minute online tutorials through the Oscar Kilo website.   

The college says the benefits including having a better work-life balance, improved wellbeing, processing stress better and developing heightened emotional intelligence.

It was developed by Detective Inspector Jenni McIntyre-Smith from Bedfordshire Police and leading UK mindfulness trainer Michael Chaskalson with wellbeing researchers from the University of East Anglia.

People under severe stress become disassociated from what they are doing and this is the first issue tackled by the course. Other issues include responding to challenge, communicating and self-care.

The College of Policing explained: “We know Policing is hugely demanding. As officers and staff, we frequently experience things and are exposed to traumas that most people will never experience. Mindfulness training offers us tools to help deal with these pressures and with the reality of policing today.”

Mindfulness is a psychological tool that helps people recognise earlier when they are experiencing serious and prolonged stress. By reframing the perceived situation – and meditating on positive things – people can avoid triggering responses that can lead to severe depression.

The College of Policing explains that the course gets participants “paying attention to what's happening in the present moment in the mind, body and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness”.

The course was developed from a six-month trial involving more than 1,300 officers and staff. Those who took part reported improved average performance in their job, resilience and wellbeing.

DI McIntyre-Smith, who helped develop Mindfit Cop, discovered mindfulness after returning to a work promotion after maternity leave and found herself leading three high-risk units while trying to balance home life.

She said: “I was trying to do my best in all my roles: mum, partner, leader. I was trying to keep all the plates spinning and not let anything drop. I started to notice that my head always felt really full, I didn’t feel that I was anywhere, almost like I was floating.

“When I was at work, my head was at home and when I was at home, my head was at work, I wasn’t giving anyone the attention that they deserved and I felt frustrated and unfocused.”

She had to overcome her own scepticism about whether it would work and the benefits, such as better concentration, were not immediate.

DI McIntyre-Smith said: “To be honest, in the first few weeks I really didn’t get it, but I persevered with the course. I didn’t actually notice the changes myself straight away, it was my colleagues who commented that I seemed different and my partner who noticed the biggest difference in me. After about week five or six I began to really feel the benefits.”

Dr Helen Fitzhugh, a social researcher with the University of East Anglia (UEA), helped develop the course with funding from the College of Policing as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

Getting police and staff to look beyond the image of mindfulness as a New Age fad has proved challenging.

She said: “Because this is such a simple idea, people often have misconceptions about mindfulness. One of the challenges of training police officers and staff in mindfulness is overcoming any initial resistance to pre-conceived ideas of what 'people who are mindful' look like, or do.”

Rachel Tuffin, Director at the College of Policing, said: “Recent surveys have shown those working in policing are less likely than other emergency services to seek help and support to deal with the pressures and demands their jobs entail. DI McIntyre-Smith’s programme is one practical option.”

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