Protecting and helping the vulnerable

Security officers are in the ideal position to see many things – and the right training can help them give the right kind of support to vulnerable people.

Security officers in shopping centres spend their working hours observing people and their behaviours. They have one eye on whether someone might pose a risk to security and another eye on whether they need help or whether they pose a risk to themselves or others. This is especially true over the winter, when pressures on mental health increase. It is even more of a challenge given the difficulties of the last year.

There has been an increasing awareness of the prevalence of mental health disorders over recent years and it is estimated that every week, one in six adults in the UK experience a common mental health problem (such as anxiety or depression) and one in five adults has considered taking their own life. And although these statistics do not make comfortable reading, they could be even worse in context of a coronavirus.

Added pressure

We know that unemployment, which is closely correlated to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, is up by 500,000 since March 2020. In addition to this, the number of people claiming benefits is up by 1.5 million, and figures suggest that two-thirds of people receiving Employment and Support Allowance also report mental health problems. It could be a very challenging time for many people.

In a regular year, the number of visitors a shopping centre attracts can be staggering – it means that security officers interact with a vast number of people, and naturally, some will be classified as vulnerable – mentally ill, physically disabled or elderly.

Our officers have had first-hand experience of witnessing and dealing with various incidents that have involved the death or serious injury of a person on site, these can include accidents, natural incident such as heart attack, suicides or failed attempts; and assaults, either on somebody else or on themselves.

We know that these incidents can be challenging, and in the worst cases traumatising for all those involved. It is essential, therefore, to give our officers the training they need to be able to approach these situations confidently, and help that vulnerable person in the best possible way, as well as providing care and support to the officer following an event.

We have had reports from centre managers who have witnessed security officers show exceptional bravery by stepping into unpredictable situations. One officer prevented a man from jumping over a fourth-floor railing in the middle of a Surrey shopping centre on Christmas Eve, and similarly it was the calm reactions of another Axis Security Officer who, while waiting for the emergency services, used the onsite defibrillator to revive a man who had collapsed and stopped breathing. It is these assertive actions that save lives.

Safeguard our officers

In the aftermath of such an event; emotional and psychological reactions are normal. As an employer, we have a duty of care to support our staff following such incidents. Axis will recommend a diffusion process within 48 hours of a distressing event, if not sooner, to help assist in coming to terms with their experience as well as to prepare them to understand what is a ‘normal’ reaction over the coming days. We assess each person on an individual basis and may make further recommendations such as visiting their G.P; counselling; a stress assessment; or taking time off or temporarily changing their duties.

The reports which follow any of these types of events always praise the calmness and quick thinking of the officers involved. Part of this can be attributed to their courage, but a large part is also to do with the training they receive in how to deal with specific situations, especially when it comes to suicide and mental health awareness.

Our in-house learning and development academy provides our officers with a range of Mental Health awareness courses, including Mental Health First Aid, and Supervising Mental Health First Aid. All courses are taught by knowledgeable trainers using a variety of modern teaching methods to make them interesting, engaging and enjoyable so that officers get the best out of the time they spend in the classroom.

Find out more about how Axis Security can help...

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