If I can impart my struggles and make other people’s lives easier, why wouldn’t I?Clare, Detective Sergeant
I’ve served over 28 years at Avon and Somerset Police, and while I’m not retiring just yet, I’ve started to consider what may come next and what opportunities I could look into. At one point, I was considering a master’s degree in psychotherapy, and although I didn’t pursue that, it gave me a good starting point. I knew I wanted to give back to society in a new way that I don’t already do through my fulfilling work as a detective sergeant. This culminated in me joining Mind, a well-known mental health charity, just over a year ago as a volunteer.
The motivation behind this at the time was going through my own personal journey in relation to my own mental wellbeing. I was practicing journalling, trying to understand mental health and the way that our brains work. At the time, I was also waiting for an assessment for ADHD, for which I now have a formal diagnosis. As part of this journey to learn more and engage with others who are neurodivergent, or have knowledge of it, I came across Mind.
The work they do was something that really interested me. In taking part, I thought I would learn things about myself and talk to others who were going through similar struggles.
It’s been an absolute eyeopener. I thought I completely understood the way of the world through policing, but volunteering made me realise there’s so many ways to keep expanding my knowledge. As police officers I think we should grasp these opportunities where possible to strengthen the service we provide to the public. Volunteering has opened my eyes to all sorts of communities, with their different struggles and it’s taught me to look at people from a more empathetic perspective. It has also shown me that the support systems found within communities are invaluable, and we are much stronger when working together.
I’ve been an avid Glastonbury goer since the early 90s, and an opportunity came up through Mind to go in a voluntary capacity as litter pickers. Previously, I worked as a police officer at the event, but never as a volunteer. It was totally different to my day job – I worked four six-hour shifts, from 6:00 to 12:00. The work was physically exhausting, constantly bending down and seeing my step counter rise up and up. On the Saturday, I clocked up around 46,000 steps! Waiting to hear how much was raised as a charity was the cherry on top of a fantastic week.
Despite the exhaustion, it was a humbling and grounding experience that I am very thankful for. Having no more than three hours sleep before a physical shift, but then having fantastic conversations with people about neurodivergence and mental health. People could identify with what I went through and reflect on whether it applied to them. You walked around with people for a brief time but the impact it left on them was invaluable, and it really allowed me to view the festival through a different lens. This made me consider how I could take this experience and use what I learned in other aspects of my life, including work.
We’re more open to dealing with everything in the present, and the number of conversations I’ve had with colleagues about important matters such as neurodiversity, is a privilege. I’m very proud that the things I have learnt in volunteering enables me to empower others to be more open and honest with each other. If we, as police officers, are more exposed to the different opportunities going on outside work, it’s going to come back ten-fold on how we interact with the general public.