The national police wellbeing service, Oscar Kilo, is to begin using ‘trauma support dogs’ to help alleviate mental health concerns within policing.
The initiative, launched during Mental Health Awareness Week this week, aims to provide police forces with access to specially-trained trauma support dogs, which Oscar Kilo believes will support police staff with their mental health, create a sense of calm, alleviate emotional and psychological stresses, and help people deal with the impact of a traumatic event.
The dog handlers are also mental health first aiders or trained peer supporters who are equipped to listen, enable difficult conversations and provide signposting to further support.
“When a dog is introduced into the workplace, the atmosphere immediately changes and people want to interact with him or her,” said Sgt Garry Botterill, Oscar Kilo lead for the Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs network.
“During this time together, they share oxytocin, a hormone that engenders affection, trust and a sense of security. It helps naturally lower cortisone levels and in doing so reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.
“The enthusiasm of the people who are championing wellbeing in their home force is absolutely infectious and we are getting superb feedback from all over the country about how effective dogs are at helping colleagues,” he added.
Andy Rhodes, director for the National Police Wellbeing Service said: “One of the roles of the National Police Wellbeing Service is to support the thriving network of frontline practitioners who, on top of a busy day job, bring great ideas to life. The Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs are a perfect example and we are delighted to help Garry and his team spread the benefits across policing.”