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Issue No. 413 May 2017

The stress we take home…

Police is acting to reduce stress suffered by frontline officers’ partners after research highlighted the trauma some of our staff are taking home.

The stress you take home at the end of a tough day might be affecting your loved ones.

In a survey of partners, nearly 25 percent of respondents said they suffered moderate, high or severe secondary trauma caused by hearing about events affecting a partner, or by the partner’s negative stress reactions.

Such levels are considered enough to put them at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Auckland PhD student Stowe Alrutz developed the online survey and in 2015 invited partners of responders - including Police, Fire, Ambulance and Defence staff – to take part anonymously.

Police partners made up 27 percent of respondents: 81 percent said they received no stress management information from Police; 75 percent had no welcome or induction from Police – but 84 percent of those who did found it useful.

Inspector Iain Saunders, Head of School Initial Training, says after seeing the preliminary findings of the study last year he started hosting presentations for recruits’ families on graduation day.

Researcher Stowe Alrutz

“Stowe’s work has been great because it has allowed us to get on to it really quickly,” says Iain, who as an organisational psychologist in Police worked with Stowe during her research.

“The best way to influence the outcome for partners is to let them know it’s normal to experience transferred stress.

“Partners need to set ground rules about how much they want to hear about work, and how they manage work-life balance – things like leaving the phone at work and not answering emails at weekends.

"Partners are critical in the wellbeing of our frontline.”

The session is based on a ‘self-care’ presentation given to recruits, which includes stress management. Partners are told they can seek help from the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), Early Intervention or their local welfare officer – and this applies at any stage of an officer’s career.

“The understanding that care is available is very important.”

Stowe, a military spouse for 20 years, says Police’s response to her research is fantastic. “Getting research out of academia and into the real world is ideal.”

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