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Pilot scheme at Northumbria Police improves mental health

Police staff experiencing anxiety and depression have been helped to recover thanks to a treatment which focuses on the solution rather than the problem.

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH) is said to take the best from a range of therapies – including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Neuro-Linguistic Processing (NLP).

And it was used in a pilot scheme with Northumbria Police – with everyone who completed the treatment getting better – and nearly 80 per cent no longer showing symptoms.

Inspired to Change, which sponsored the scheme, also found over 80 per cent reported an increase in their life wellness score and more than 90 per cent had improved sleep.

Helen Murphy, people partnering and wellbeing lead at Northumbria police, said: “We saw a marked positive change in those who took part in the pilot, as a result of the sessions.

“They were more comfortable talking about their mental health, said they enjoyed better relationships and have been more effective at work.”

Dr Emily Barney, a clinical psychologist who has worked with the NHS and in mental health services for nearly 20 years, is a lead writer on a paper on SFH effectiveness.

She said: “The therapy led to a significant reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms, which includes disturbed sleep, hyper vigilance, self-medicating and anger issues.”

Mental health issues in the police force

Around 70 per cent of police officers have reported mental health issues and more than HALF required some form of therapy, according to a survey.

Police Care, the charity for serving and veteran police officers and staff, also found many did not get help and went to work as usual.

And it costs the UK millions of pounds and impacts on policing as staff take time off for stress, anxiety or depression – or are simply not as productive – due to demands of the job.

The fear of appearing weak or unable to cope, along with a belief it may harm their careers, stops many in the police force from seeking help.

Solution Focused

Northumbria Police signed up to SFH, which uses clinically proven neuroscience-based techniques to help clients understand their brains.

It does not delve into a client’s past and can be used for a range of issues, the most common being anxiety, as well as depression, low confidence, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dr Barney, who is also a registered psychotherapist and hypnotherapist with special interest in treating complex trauma, said: “Most mental health issues are linked to anxiety.

“SFH works for a range of conditions and has the benefit of being a safe, structured and even an enjoyable process.”

Gets results

Dr Emma Treby, a lead writer on the pilot scheme report and a former university lecturer, said: “This is a fantastic result. It’s great for the team’s wellbeing – and a healthy police force is in everyone’s interest.”

Following treatment staff members said they could better maintain perspective, cope with challenges, were calmer and had improved sleep.

It not only helped participants in their professional life, but many said it improved relationships at home too.

Demands of the job and trauma

Demands of the role can take its toll and officers are more frequently exposed to traumatic events – from road traffic collisions to murders – and are more likely to experience PTSD compared to people working in other jobs.

Yet the majority were unaware they had PTSD – though it impacts on their health ability and to function

Those who took part in the trial no longer exhibited symptoms of PTSD, which can range from self-harm to self-medication.

Gary Johannes, an ex RAF soldier who served during the Falklands War, has witnessed first-hand the effects of PTSD.

The clinical hypnotherapist and lecturer from Inspired to Change said: “Working in an emergency service is a rewarding and invaluable role, but it is undoubtedly challenging.

“Left untreated, PTSD can make it difficult for people to hold down jobs or relationships. It can be damaging, not just to the individual concerned, but their family.

“While we cannot remove the stresses and trauma they face on a regular basis, SFH can provide them with the tools to manage it effectively and long term.”

Plans for national rollout

Psychotherapeutic therapy may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, but over 50 per cent of clients do not respond to treatment, according to several studies.

SFH appears to be a strong alternative, with a high uptake and good outcomes, and there are plans to roll out the treatment to other police forces and emergency services.

SFH has the potential to support staff, while decreasing millions of pounds in costs relating to sickness, absence and lack of productivity.

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Dr Emma Treby of Inspired to Change

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Notes to editors

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy was developed by David Newton, who founded the Clifton Hypnotherapy Practice in the 1990s and later the Clifton Practice Hypnotherapy Training School. There are now training schools internationally and many therapists have contributed outcome data collected from over 7,500 clients and over 40,000 clinical hours, which suggests that SFH could be a promising treatment method for anxiety and depression (Cahill, 2019), and one where the focus is not only on the reduction of symptoms but also the improvement of wellness and resilience. The effectiveness of SFH in the report was measured through questionnaires, such as the Generalised Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD-7), which looks at anxiety symptoms, and The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), which is used to measure severity of depression symptoms and to enable comparison to other psychotherapeutic interventions such as CBT. It also included Life wellness indicator scores (to measure wellness), participant and therapist questionnaires, interviews with therapists and conversations with Police HR and Wellbeing staff.

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