International Men's Day: Make time for old mates


According to a survey from the Movember Foundation, one in four UK men are in contact with friends less than once a month, and one in ten can't remember the last time they interacted with mates.

This got us thinking about how those numbers might look for police officers.

Of all the careers that can have an impact on your social circle, being a cop has got to somewhere near the top of the list. Some friendships fall by the wayside when you join, while shift patterns and rest day cancellations can make it difficult to make plans with friends. Equally, many of us have met mates in the job; people we can have a laugh with or turn to for support.

This is important, and not just because it helps those long shifts fly.

Friendships and wellness

There's no doubt that the state of our friendships can reflect (and affect) the state of our health and wellbeing. Loneliness can be devastating for mental health resulting in poor sleep, elevated blood pressure, increased anxiety, and depression. People with a solid friendship group consistently report feeling more positive, supported and motivated. Friends bring benefits.

In an interview with the team at the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) TV doctor, author and podcaster, Rangan Chattergee explained: "Seeing your friends in person is not a luxury for good health, it's an absolute necessity. For many of my patients, all I need to do is help them prioritise their friendships."

"One of the messages of International Men's Day is togetherness, with men being encouraged to make time for old mates. We asked Fed Reps Michael Natavio (Tav) and John Paul O'Kane (JP) about how they go about making time for their mates around their work commitments.

Keeping in touch when you're busy

"Outside work I have a core group of friends, mostly from school, and some of whom I have known since I was four" JP told us. "None of them are in the police and I am the only shift worker which is the main thing that impacts on when I see them.

"When we were younger, we used to meet up at least once a week for a few beers but with life and families and everything else, we are lucky if we get together as a group two or three times a year."

"Our main source of keeping in touch is WhatsApp chats, which seems to be a bad word in terms of policing, but it really is important in maintaining the connection and I can't imagine how it would be without it."

Tav also turns to his phone to stay in touch with friends. He explained: "The majority of my relationships that I maintain in and around work always start off with a text. "An 'are you ok?' or 'what you up to this weekend?' is a sort of way to check in with people."

He continued: "I fit my hobbies around work and much like hobbies, you have to commit to seeing people. As soon as you start being lax in relationships and friendships, you start making excuses not to go see someone or cancelling plans. I believe it is important to stay on top of that, and to surround yourself with people who understand and reciprocate the effort you put in."

Both JP and Tav describe meeting colleagues at work who have gone on to be firm friends and people they socialise with off duty. There's something to be said for the strength of friendships formed under the pressures of a job like policing.

"You make friends in the job, and I can honestly say that bonds are formed," Tav said. "Maybe it is being a part of the same 'tribe', or the commonality you find between people you would never have interacted with otherwise, but you feel part of something."

If as you read this post, the faces of friends you haven't spoken to a in a while come to mind, why not use this as a prompt to pick up the phone or send them a text?

Need support?

If you are experiencing loneliness or are feeling a little isolated, JP, Tav and our other Fed Reps are on hand for a chat. They can also point you in the direction of organisations who can help with how you're feeling, or you can make contact directly:

Photo by Nicholas Swatz/Pexels