Police sergeant opens up about traumatic events which led to counselling
A Suffolk police sergeant has opened up about a series of traumatic events which led to him receiving counselling – and has urged colleagues who might be suffering to seek help.
Sergeant Scott Lee-Amies, who has been in roads policing for 22 years, said many officers experience “secondary grief” when dealing with families who have lost a loved one but try to “box it off”.
Sgt Lee-Amies, who works as a lead investigator for killed or serious injury (KSI) collisions as well as a family liasion coordinator for road deaths in Suffolk, said he witnesses a lot of upsetting incidents.
“As police officers, we’re good at looking after others, but it often becomes apparent we’re not good at looking after ourselves,” he said.
“As roads policing officers we see a lot. We deal with families when a loved one is killed and often experience secondary grief. Many of us do this daily and believe we can just box it off and move on to the next.”
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But it was a series of distressing incidents in 2016 which took their toll on his mental health.
Sgt Lee-Amies said the death of the toddler in a collision that year was the most emotionally difficult thing he has ever dealt with in his career.
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“It was made worse by the fact the girl was only a week older than my own daughter, which I found extremely difficult,” he said.
“I worked closely with the family liaison officer, who was also struggling with the deployment. I believe I did all I could to support the officers involved in this investigation but felt that I wasn’t getting any support from my supervisors, perhaps because I gave the impression things like this didn’t affect me.”
MORE: Suffolk ‘Supercop’ Ali Livingstone pens new book on life in policing and his mental health breakdownEvents began to affect the experienced sergeant, he was getting angry and upset over minor things but thought it would pass. Things finally came to a head in December 2019 when he stopped a member of the public.
The person was a therapist and reported that Sgt Lee-Amies appeared to be displaying psychological issues. He was urged to seek support.
“Not only did counselling help me deal with what had happened in the past and what was happening now, it gave me tools to deal with stresses in the future,” he added.
“If I had my time again, I’d take any help the constabulary offered me and would be honest with my supervisor, rather than just expect them to know there’s a problem.
“I find debriefing as a team is a great way of checking your colleagues and yourself. We work so closely together that if you’re not right, someone will notice and hopefully be honest with you.”
Speaking in his blog on the Suffolk Police Federation website, chairman Darren Harris said the way the force has developed over the years has resulted in some officers dealing with more traumatic incidents on a regular basis.
This can mean roads officers go from crash to crash with no respite in between.
“There needs to be more acknowledgement during training that roads officers are going to deal with a lot of trauma, and they need to be equipped for it,” he said.
“Trauma is a reality of the role, and we must build this in right from the word go. We also have a duty to recognise those who are suffering and to ensure they get the very best help and support.”