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Building psychological strength for the benefit of public safety

Read the full Serco People Report 2021 (9mb)

Our colleagues serve society in some of the most challenging environments in the world. Those challenges can take many forms, including acutely antisocial behaviour from service users and other members of the public.

Where our colleagues are responsible for maintaining security and public safety, they may be required to tackle such behaviour head-on, and we recognise that being psychologically prepared to safely manage those incidents is just as important as any other training. We are committed to helping them strengthen their skills in coping, mentally and emotionally, with the traumatic events they witness and manage every day.

For our Security and Incident Management Service (SIMS) colleagues at Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) in Murdoch, Australia, we have recently introduced new ‘vicarious trauma and resilience’ training. SIMS Manager, Rad De Luca, was concerned about the impact of violence on his team and the cumulative effect on their mental health:

“Many people don’t realise the extent of antisocial behaviour our team experience every day. We help to subdue people in drug-induced psychosis, calm people experiencing a mental health episode and restrain people with dementia who are lashing out because of their illness. We also help to de-escalate any issues that may unfortunately arise among visitors. Our patrol officers can also be present during medical emergencies, and sadly patients sometimes don’t make it – that can have a big impact as well.”

While the team already engage in ‘hot’ debriefs immediately after an event and a ‘cold’ debrief several days later, Rad wanted his team to build their resilience and learn additional ways to cope with what they experience.

We are frontline protection for the doctors and nurses in one of Western Australia’s busiest emergency departments. It’s really important that our people are fit and healthy – physically and mentally.

Recognising the unique needs of the SIMS team, our Learning and Development colleagues at FSH organised a tailored workshop in partnership with our Employee Assistance Programme provider.

The group sessions cover individual’s trigger points for certain events, and how to identify and manage these feelings. SIMS Team Leader, Peter Cook, said the workshops have given the team new skills and a better understanding of one another:

“We’ve learned new breathing exercises to calm down and shared our own personal coping methods. We talk about our backgrounds and some of the things we’ve experienced. Some of the team don’t have a security, police or military background and we don’t naturally talk about our feelings with each other. The facilitator is brilliant, which has made a difference to how engaged people are and their willingness to open up.

“We are now having more chats in our team about how we feel and how we cope. It’s given us permission to be more open with one another and helped us find ways to talk to our partners about what we experience.”

From Rad’s perspective, the training has had a noticeable, positive impact on the team:

“The workshops have been really well received by all participants to date – more than half the team so far. This training has given people the tools to be able to talk about how they are and there's no doubt that it’s strengthened the team. We’re in the best place we’ve ever been, despite having experienced our most challenging 12 months yet. We’re very grateful that Serco is finding different ways to support us.”

Our people's stories