This is a short note to the people who work at the Daily Mail.
A couple of personal facts by way of introduction:
For more than twenty-five years, I have served as an officer with the Metropolitan Police. And I am incredibly proud of that fact. It has been – and it remains – my duty and my joy.
For the past four years and eight months, I have taken anti-depressant medication at the start of every day. And I am not remotely ashamed of that fact. It’s a part of who I am.
I don’t read your newspaper, but it’s been difficult to avoid your front pages in recent days. It’s apparent that you don’t think much of people like me: people who stand on thin blue lines; people who might need a helping hand to get through the day.
So I wanted to say a handful of things by way of a response. Starting with the job I do.
Policing is entirely imperfect. Individually and collectively, we get things wrong every single day – sometimes devastatingly so. But I work with heroes.
I work with people who save lives.
I work with people who don’t hesitate when help is needed.
I work with people who place themselves in harm’s way in defence of complete strangers.
I work with people who have been seriously injured in the line of duty: people who have been shot; people who have been stabbed; people who have been beaten unconscious. Simply for doing their duty.
I work with people who go where most wouldn’t and do what most couldn’t.
I work with people who make critical, life-or-death, decisions in fractions of seconds – without anything approaching a full set of facts or the glorious benefits of hindsight.
I work with people who have paid the greatest price of all.
I work with heroes: entirely imperfect, bloody heroes.
And I don’t see their stories being told on the cover of your newspaper.
As we head into 2018, policing in this country is operating under greater strain than at any point since the end of the Second World War. Crime is rising. Demand is growing. Complexity is increasing. Resources are falling. And everything can’t be a priority.
Throwing stones is easy. It’s a little more difficult to step into the arena.
Pointing fingers is easy. It’s a little more difficult to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.
Finding fault is easy. It’s a little more difficult to find answers. And to be part of those answers.
Tearing down is easy. It’s a little more difficult – and it just takes a little more time – to build things up.
We need to do the things that are more difficult.
But I’m not just the job I do. I’m a thousand other things besides.
And, like countless others, I fight my battles with depression.
Depression is not the same as sadness. In fact, sadness is to depression as a puddle is to the Pacific. It is a thing of raw horror and blind terror – a water-boarding of the mind. It could happen to any of us.
I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
In a world that is endlessly troubling, one of the few positive developments of recent times has been the emergence of a much more open and compassionate conversation about mental ill health: a conversation that is not well-served by lazy headlines about happy pills.
Judgement is easy. Compassion is a little more difficult.
Hating is easy. Understanding is a little more difficult.
Isolating is easy. Connecting is a little more difficult.
Blaming those who suffer is easy. Loving them is a little more difficult.
Putting up walls is easy. Building bridges is a little more difficult.
And we need to do the things that are more difficult.