The PTC helped me to help myself


The Police Treatment Centres (PTC) is a charity with a 100-plus-year history of supporting police officers, and others, back to better health. While much of the organisation's focus used to be on physical injuries, in recent years it has invested heavily in supporting officers and staff with mental health challenges.

Alongside the first-class physiotherapy programmes, targeted exercise and relaxation classes and treatments such as hydrotherapy, the PTC offers a psychological wellbeing programme. This is an aspect of the charity's work that serving BTP officer and Federation Rep, John Paul O'Kane has experienced, as he explains in this guest blog...

When I attended the Police Treatment Centre (PTC) in Harrogate earlier this year to attend a Federation Management Board meeting, little did I realise that I would be back so soon, this time as a patient.

After an issue in my personal life, I was conscious enough to note that my mental wellbeing was not quite where it should have been. Having been made aware of what the PTC was able to offer, I self-referred to Occupational Health who in turn recommended a visit to the PTC Castlebrae in Auchterarder for the Psychological Wellbeing Programme.

I had a telephone triage with one of the PTC nurses who echoed what Occupational Health had recommended and I was booked in to attend for two weeks in October.

In the days leading up to my arrival, I was filled with nervous apprehension. However, I needn't have worried. From the minute I walked in the door on the Monday morning, I was made to feel welcome. The reception staff are warm and friendly, and I was quickly checked in and given my room key and my appointment to see the nurse for my admission consultation in an hours' time.

The nurse whom I saw was the same one who had triaged me some weeks previously and she went over the timetable for my two-week stay. They seemed to have packed in so much to the two weeks, from Stress Awareness and Introduction to Mindfulness, to essential oils and Tai Chi. But first thing on the agenda was to meet the rest of my group on a short walk round the village of Auchterarder.

I was allocated to a group of five others who were on the same Wellbeing Programme as myself and for the duration of my stay, we would attend group sessions together, and dine together at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We were from quite a diverse range of policing roles and all from different police forces, but we bonded quickly as we got to know each other.

The days were busy but still afforded us a fair bit of down time where we were encouraged to do additional activities. I swam every day which I absolutely loved, and we would make use of the Centre's mountain bikes to cycle to the nearby Gleneagles Hotel and golf courses. The food every day was amazing, varied and plentiful. I don't think I have eaten so well.

Having a structure to my day helped me and simple things like having three sit-down meals, not rushed in front of a computer, or in a car, had a surprisingly positive effect. The counselling sessions were beneficial, and more were offered if required, but I found the more practical, workshop-based classes to have more of a positive impact on me; everyone is different. Stress, Relaxation and Sleep workshops all resulted in me nodding off in a reclining armchair.

There is no alcohol allowed on site, however the local pub is a stone's throw from the centre and Thursday night was karaoke night and while we all very much enjoyed the social side of our night at the pub, I'm not sure if the staff would recommend exposure to some of the 'singers' on offer...

There are large comfortable TV lounges with tea, coffee and hot chocolate on demand where you can relax with a book, or newspaper or watch a film. There are therapy dogs who come in one evening a week to be fussed over by all and sundry. There is also a craft room where several of my group spent many hours discovering talents that they never knew they had.

I was genuinely sad when it came time to pack my case and leave Castlebrae. I honestly cannot think of a single negative thing to say about my time there. The staff, without a doubt the PTC's greatest asset, were wonderful; every single one of them. They would stop for a chat in the corridor, they knew your name and when they asked how you were doing, they genuinely meant it.

The food is amazing, the rooms are clean and comfortable, and the facilities are fantastic. I have paid into the PTC for 16 years now, in the hope that I would never need to use it but be safe in the knowledge that if I ever did need it, it was there.

It really is a special place, and I would encourage anyone who doesn't pay in, to do so. Even if you never need to use it - and hopefully you won't - your contributions will ensure that colleagues who do need their help, and sadly there are more and more, will be able to get it.

The Psychological Wellbeing Programme doesn't claim to fix you, but it gives you the tools and knowledge to help yourself, and for that, I will always be grateful.

As John Paul explains, the Police Treatment Centres relies on regular monthly donations from supporters. BTP officers are asked to pay £7.20 every four weeks and this donation is taken at source by payroll. The form you need to join the charity is available to download here and there is a wealth of information about the services offered at www.thepolicetreatmentcentres.org