Shane Dall’osto was an outstanding police officer and an even better bloke. He went to work early one day and turned his police-issue gun on himself.
His death rocked the Queensland Police Service – and no one more than his colleague Bruce Graydon.
“It was on the back of many others who I knew personally and it started this dialogue in my head,’’ Mr Graydon said. ‘’It’s not normal for someone to know so many people who have committed suicide.’’
“Police have unique mental health issues, they are sometimes exposed to more trauma in one eight-hour shift than a normal person in their whole life. Often they are subjected to multiple days like that, some back to back to back. It’s no wonder that they break.’’
Mr Graydon did his reasearch, and with a colleague, vowed to start Helping Out Police Everywhere – hence Blue HOPE was born. The national support service kicked off in 2014 and has helped in excess of 200 past and present police officers across the country.
“I did study on early intervention, looking at what they were doing in the United States, Canada, the UK and Europe, and I had a head full of ideas on what was required to beter supprot police,’’ Mr Graydon explained.
“We started humbly with our Facebook page. It’s a portal to anonymously contact us and we confidentially case manage existing and former ploce and their families. It was a suck- it-and-see approach and I’m one hundred million per cent positive we have helped stop people from taking their own lives.’’
Mr Graydon said empathy not just sympathy was key.
“We have walked in their shoes. We are not counsellors but they understand that we get it.
“That immediate trust makes people far more malleable to accepting suggestions and referrals to professional services.’’
Consistency was the other crucial factor. ‘’Not just one-off contact. We keep in regular support with all of our clients until it’s clear they don’t need us any more.’’
Mr Graydon wants a footrprint fro Blue HOPE in every state of Australia. Former Illawarra cop Brendon Bullock is an ambassador and will share his personal experiences and the work of the organisation.
“Our ambassadors are a valuable example of hope, strength and encouragement to others,’’ Mr Graydon said.
PLAN FOR BETTER PTSD SUPPORT ‘IGNORED’
Making a claim for compensation for an injury suffered at work shouldn’t make you a target, yet that’s exactly what’s happened to countless Illawarra police officers and other emergency service personnel.
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said: “This is a matter we have raised with numerous police ministers, over more than five years.’’
Last year the Greens, with support from psychiatrists, lawyers and injured police, developed a ten-point roadmap to reform the way police psychological injuries are dealt with.
“Despite its broad support outside government the roadmap has been ignored by the NSW Police and injured police are paying the price,’’ Mr Shoebridge said.
“The very job of a police officer is to run towards danger, and then when they experience mental illness as a result of what they have seen, they are palmed off to aggressive insurance companies like damaged goods.
“The very nature of policing, which involves the routine exposure of officers to the fact or threat of violent injury to themselves and others, means that one of the most common injuries suffered by police is PTSD.
“This is a reality that is often ignored by the Police Force and the insurers and agencies responsible for dealing with injured police.
‘’Clear limits must be established on the use of covert surveillance by insurance companies in relation to psychological injuries. Time limits on determining claims, providing certainty and security, are also essential.
‘’Repeated, often intrusive, surveillance of psychologically injured police aggravates their injuries and it’s a practice that must be stopped,’’ he said.