Paw and order! Stressed cops are now getting mental health support from force’s ‘wellbeing dog’ called Honey

Posted: 17th June 2022

  • Springer Spaniel Honey has been visiting officers to improve mental wellbeing
  • Honey was provided to Kent Police by the national Oscar Kilo 9 network 
  • The interactive canine sessions aim to ‘provide relief’ and get people talking

Police officers across Kent are being consoled by a dedicated wellbeing and trauma support dog after dealing with distressing incidents in a bid to improve mental health for staff.

Springer Spaniel Honey has been visiting stations in the Essex area to provide a few minutes of relief to those in need, such as front-line officers who have been on the scene of traumatic incidents or 999 call handlers who may take upsetting calls.

The calming canine belongs to a community policing volunteer and was provided to Kent Police through the national Oscar Kilo 9 network (OK9), which aims to introduce wellbeing dogs in stations throughout the country.

The project began with a trial across a handful of forces which saw dogs introduced into the workplace to provide a ‘calming presence’.

PC Martyn Tulk, who leads the Community Policing Volunteer Canine team, said: ‘Policing is a challenging and demanding job which can frequently lead to stressful, upsetting and sometimes disturbing situations.

‘A growing number of police forces are recognising the value of dogs in helping officers and staff cope with the daily stresses of work and in supporting their overall wellbeing.

‘When a dog is introduced to the workplace, the interactions can provide much needed light relief.

According to police chiefs, they have seen a significant difference in wellbeing from staff following a visit from the hard-working hounds.

Officers who took part in the scheme were found to share oxytocin – a hormone which engenders trust, affection, and a sense of security – with the wellbeing dogs.

Increased oxytocin naturally lowers cortisone levels, reducing the feelings of stress and anxiety which are associated with such a demanding and dangerous job.

This led to the creation of the national OK9 network which currently has over 100 accredited wellbeing and trauma support dogs across 30 British police forces and fire and rescue services.

The interactive sessions, which can be catered to groups or individuals, aim to ‘provide light relief from the rigors of the job’ and get people talking.

Each wellbeing dog has a handler, who is a trained peer supporter or mental health first aider, to enable difficult conversations and sign-posting support where necessary.

As well as Honey, the dedicated wellbeing trauma and support dog, Kent Police uses other volunteer therapy dogs to tackle staff mental health and to support vulnerable people and children.

Every pooch is scrutinised by an animal welfare scheme and comprehensive risk assessments and insurance are in place.

PC Tulk added: ‘We hope Honey’s presence will help our officers and staff to find it easier to engage and speak about issues and events that have been causing them upset or may have been affecting their mental health and wellbeing.’

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10912297/Stressed-cops-Kent-receive-mental-health-support-forces-wellbeing-dog-called-Honey.html

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