The curtain comes down

Well, I have just watched the final episode of the BBC2 documentary The Detectives and I have had a little cry. I know the cases from the work the team have done to provide information to the media at the time. But it has brought home the impact on families and the human cost.

Supporting and remembering the families and the victims has to be at the heart of everything we do around communication. It was something the documentary managed to do; to cover the process and keep the people at the centre.

After 18 years in policing I can remember most of the murder investigations I supported as a press officer. I remember the families I spoke to, the appeals we did and the court cases. The reason they are still so clear in my mind is because I cared and still care deeply for the people affected. Getting the best outcome for them is critical after they have faced such an horrendous situation. It was clear the officers felt deeply about the cases and were determined to do all they could for the families.

I hope that I may have helped in some small way the families of the victims whose cases I worked to support. If I have then I would be satisfied.

Someone said to me recently that we seem to get involved in a lot of documentaries. I don’t think we do but I would always defend showing the painstaking work that goes on behind the scenes of major investigations. It isn’t like drama where everything gets sorted in an hour, it takes days, weeks, months and sometimes years to reach a conclusion. 

I am very proud and honoured that I work for an organisation that helps people in their darkest days. The Detectives has hopefully given people a real understanding of what takes place everyday.

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Time to open up 

Today is World Mental Health Day and hopefully a chance to talk about this important subject. It is easy to say ‘I am fine’ and keep ploughing ahead with the pressures of modern life. At some point the pressure will get too much and how will we cope?

I have often thought it could never happen to me. I am quite a robust person who can take a lot and keep bouncing back. When I have seen people struggling I felt sympathy but part of me could not understand how they got into such a position. All this had changed as I have got older and experienced more situations.

This year has tested my resilience on many levels and I have been quite open about my experiences. After 18 years in policing it has been the first time I have been to occupational health. They provided some amazing support to help me cope. All the other work I have been doing over the years came back to help as well. Three years of working on myself and using the support of a wonderful life coach all helped me through.

As with most pressurised times in my life it was the family and friends around me who also helped me through. I cannot thank those who helped enough for what they did. If only everyone had that sort of support network available things may be better.

I have seen many people struggle with their mental well-being over the years. I have lost some good friends and family to the battle with mental health. People have their own personal battles to face but the one thing we can do is to talk openly about it. I hope that World Mental Health Day may mean some people open up and seek help and that we all feel more able to talk about the issue.

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We wish you…

Well, it had to happen. I had my first detailed run through of some Christmas plans. It still feels too soon to talk about the festive season as I am still waiting for summer.

Planning is an essential part of communication and is so fundamental that it surprises me how little time we spend on it. We need to know what lies ahead, what might happen and what staffing we have available if we are to be prepared. Yet when we are busy and under pressure it can be put to the bottom of the list.

We talk a lot about the need to evaluate communication and PR to know what is working and where to put our effort and that is quite right. But we have to ensure that information goes into our planning and development of activity and teams. 

I am a pain with staff as I try to encourage them to think ahead and plan. I moan, I nudge and I cajole. We have to bring all the elements of the communication team together in a coherent and cohesive way if we are to effectively manage the brand. 

Our plans do need to be open to change and amendment. There needs to be flexibility around them so that we can be nimble in this fast moving and fast changing environment. The best laid plans may change as we never know what is round the corner. 

So, think planning and have a merry Christmas.

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Flying high

Well that was another weekend gone too soon. I always seem to give myself so much to do that I will inevitably fall short. This leads to frustration and exhaustion as I push myself to the limit. Is it really a bad thing to set your sights too high?

On one hand I have a sense of determination and am single minded about what I need to achieve. My weekends are productive and things progress although it may be slowly at times. I like to have projects underway with goals in mind. 
There are many drawbacks to my drive to achieve including that I struggle to unwind and do nothing. I can feel very disappointed and downhearted when I don’t manage to do what I planned. I can put myself under unnecessary pressure.

But I don’t think I can change how I am. Many, many years ago when I was at primary school I was quite a lazy child. I would do as little as possible and just enough to get by. My parents fearing that it would be a pattern for the rest of my life did a lot to encourage me to aim high and to work hard. So that was the start of a future mindset.

Another weekend done and a busy week ahead but while I didn’t complete everything I wanted to do I still did a lot. My sights are set high and I will be unfaltering in my attempts to reach for the stars. Exhausting though, isn’t it?

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Four legged friends

I am sitting at home tonight and I am exhausted. It comes from spending the day looking after a friends horse as well as my own. My whole day has been taken up going from one to the other but I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you read my blog regularly you will know how important animals are in my life. They are the way I relax after a tough week. They are how I can lower my blood pressure. They ask for little but give so much.

I have never really understood people who don’t have animals in their lives. As a young child my first pet was a beautiful guinea pig who taught me a lot about being responsible. We also had dogs and they were all such a big part of our family. When I went away to study I had my first animal companions that I had sole responsibility for. My first little gerbils would regularly travel from Sheffield to home with me.

Now I have had a lot of experience of animals in my life from a horse to gerbils, rats, degus, a rabbit and even a bushy-tailed jird. All have taught me so much and have been family members.

My animal companions are never rude, never answer me back, never threaten me, never attack or bully me. They are real friends giving love in return for just a little care and attention. 

I am exhausted from the responsibility of two horses today and I face another busy day before I can pass the horse back to the rightful owners. But while my joints ache my heart is singing.

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A little thank you 

I have spent tonight at our annual force award event recognising amazing work. It is always an honour to hear the details about all the work that goes on day in and day out. This year more than ever I am proud to be working for this organisation and with some unbelievably passionate and dedicated people.

There was a lot for me to be proud of tonight. Not just that my amazing colleagues actually organise the event but I also had staff who were nominated for an award. It isn’t just about the bravery but also the caring, the service and the dedication to the work. 

All organisations are only as good as the people they employ and recognising great work and when they go above and beyond is important. Unfortunately it is often something that gets overlooked and yet looking after staff should be the top of our list of priorities.

As I listened to all the stories of the work that people do it brought a tear to the eye and a lump to the throat. At the end of the night was the bravery award and all the nominees were worthy of recognition.

This year we have seen many occasions when the emergency services have run towards danger when everyone else is running away. It has been a reminder to us all of what some people will do to protect and save others. Views of the police can vary but after 18 years I can honestly say I have had the honour of working with a many fantastic people. People who put themselves in danger to save others. People who will keep going until the job is done. People who worked relentlessly and continue to do all they can after the Manchester Arena attack.

Perhaps we ought to say thank you more often to those people who improve our lives, who work hard and who strive to improve. So to everyone I work with who does all those things then I can only say thank you.

*A special thank you to the volunteers of the GMP Band who were recognised for their fundraising and for celebrating their 140th anniversary.

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When we were young 

It was shocking to read the study published today that said the majority of young people wish social media had never been invented. Many had taken part in a digital detox and around half had suffered online abuse. 

This was also brought home while watching  Educating Greater Manchester on television tonight. The impact of social media on the young lives was seen in detail. It included bullying, exclusion and the risk of exploitation.

But while all this could lead us to consider the need to boycott social media I think there is a bigger issue. We need to equip our young people with the skills to be resilient and cope with all the stresses of modern life. There are so many hints and tips and exercises that could help them but we don’t seem to recognise the need to do this.

When young people get into the workplace they can struggle to deal with it. There are demands day after day, there is little opportunity for a time out and you will meet both good and bad people. Deadlines, resourcing gaps and unrealistic demands will also face them. Inner strength and resilience is important for everyone.

We have to act quickly and introduce the support to build skills that can guide young people through their lives. What we do now will have a huge impact on the future of our young people and all of us. Perhaps we now need to teach some different life skills.

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