More than a dozen dogs have recently been specially trained to provide emotional aid to officers and staff at South Yorkshire Police, who have experienced trauma as a result of their challenging job.
The scheme, which launched this week, will see the dogs deployed to meetings and debriefs of distressing incidents and be available for visits to different teams across the force to provide vital emotional support and encourage colleagues to talk after experiencing traumatic events.
Chief Constable Lauren Poultney said: “Our police officers and staff work incredibly hard to keep our communities safe, and will often be exposed to danger, trauma and stress in their line of duty.
“In recent years, police forces nationwide have recognised the value of dogs in helping the workforce with their wellbeing. When a dog scampers into a room, the atmosphere instantly changes and people want to fuss over the dog. It is an incredibly simple but effective way of encouraging our teams to open up when they’re having a difficult time.”
Dogs cause the release a hormone called oxytocin which encourages a sense of security and trust between the furry friends and the people around them, helping to naturally lower cortisone levels in humans which reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.
Hoping to be in full use in March, the sessions will allow the animals to provide much needed comfort, whilst their owner is also present to listen and encourage difficult conversations with colleagues in need of support.
The much loved canines are all pets of SYP officers and staff and have become part of the ‘OK9’ branch of Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service, with plans to recruit more pups soon.
The initiative is receiving masses of support on the force’s social media pages, and will hopefully provide much needed support for South Yorkshire Police employees.
A survey conducted by the charity Mind UK in 2019 showed that across England and Wales, 70.4% of police officers had experienced mental health problems, therefore fresh and new methods of wellbeing support are hugely important.