AUSTRALIA'S top homicide detective Ron Iddles says a Victorian government trial to fund police for immediate treatment in mental health injuries should transform the force.
Iddles said the pilot program offering 13 weeks' treatment, without members having to prove the mental injury was work-related, could help make big improvements in breaking the stigma for those seeking support.
The retired Iddles, speaking for a men's health event in Ballarat on Wednesday night, has played an instrumental role in raising awareness for serving police officers' mental health, particularly as police association secretary.
Iddles is encouraging all men to speak up rather than bottle it up with all health concerns, but particularly for a mental injury.
Too often as a homicide detective, Iddles saw some of the great lengths people would take to complete suicide. Of the 3200 suicides in Australia each year, about 2200 were men. Iddles said one of the major issues was people not seeking help for a mental injury in the same way they would for a physical injury, like a broken arm.
He praised the state government's move to change this approach in the emergency services.
Iddles said there was no formal counselling through his career until his last couple of years in homicide when officers would receive an email offering support service numbers.
Other emergency services personnel, including triple-zero call-takers, will be able to access the program from July 1.
The same will apply for corrections staff, child protection officials and public sector nurses and midwives.
Iddles said in the past if police were struggling on the job, they were too often questioned about the validity to whether the job was a key driver or if other personal issues were to blame. He said others felt immune to mental injury, or would say they were okay to not be perceived as weak. Gradually the culture was changing.
"Now, at the end of the 13 weeks if your claim is rejected, you can pay for further treatment yourself but you're still putting your hand up sooner and getting treatment," Iddles said.
"New South Wales police have had a similar program for about five years and have a higher return to work rate for mental injuries.
It's a trial in Victoria but I think it will continue. You'll find more police seek help because there won't be that stigma attached.
The former detective, who spent decades investigating homicides, was guest speaker with Hawthorn AFL great Peter Hudson for a men's health night event at Civic Hall, hosted by Ballarat Health Services with Ballarat Library and Ballarat Community Health.
Iddles spoke about his homicide work, but also how he manged his own mental health particularly with high-profile cases and the hyper-vigilant nature of policing. His key messages were physical exercise and not always mixing with other police. Iddles chose to exercise but for 15 years he also was a driver for Firefly Express to Adelaide, calling in via Ballarat nightly.
BCH chief Sean Duffy hoped the high-profile nature of Iddles and Hudson would spur men to take their health more seriously. Mr Duffy said men were not typically great at accessing treatment but talking helped foster support for physical or mental conditions.
For help or information visit beyondblue.org.au, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 131 114.
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