The suicide of a former colleague opened the eyes of retired Victoria Police Special Operations Group (SOG) member, Tony Currie, to the silent destructiveness that lies dormant in the hearts and minds of so many serving, and retired police.
His mate, a former Armed Robbery Squad Detective Sergeant Mark Wiley, took his own life in 2014 after a long battle with depression. “Mark was what I would have regarded as physically and emotionally, a very strong person. I knew since he was shot many years ago that he was in a bad space, but I never knew it had the capacity to overrun his life as it ended up doing.”
Tony thought if it could happen to Mark, it could happen to anyone in the job, or long retired from it.
“I thought I should really commit to trying to help some people out, so I got onto the committee for the Retired Peer Support Officer program and started to work as a peer.” Tony said his own experiences, being involved in shootings and other critical incidents, armed him with a level of empathy and authority that he could use to help other retired police who struggled with the ramifications of the trauma they had experienced.
“Sometimes they might not want to meet, they may just want to have a chat over the phone, but generally I encourage them to have a face to face catch up, they need to know there’s that genuine connection there.” “The key to a peer is to listen, to assess, to refer and follow up. It might just be that they don’t know where to turn to, so it might just be a gentle hand to guide them in the right direction.”
He says that retired members leave the job and lose the mateship that comes from policing. They sit and dwell on their problems, they’re not active enough to keep their mind occupied and they start thinking of the terrible jobs they’ve attended over the years. RPSO Coordinator, Vicki Key, says the service has grown significantly in the past three years. “We now have 60 retired peers across the state, and one in NSW, and we’ve now managed to help in excess of 700 current and former police members through the program.”
TPAV President, John Laird, agrees it is an important initiative. “Our members perform an extremely difficult and dangerous service to the community, and, unfortunately sometimes the trauma they’ve been exposed to outlasts their time in the job.”
“This program offers them critical support through their peers, who know only too well what they’re going through, and can guide them towards the help they need to get back on track.”
Reviewed 06 August 2019