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Police Inspector opens up about his own mental ill health to raise awareness

Inspector Craig Nolan is telling his story as part of Time to Talk Day. Credit: BPM Media

An inspector for Nottinghamshire Police has opened up on his mental health struggles to show others they are not alone.

As part of Time to Talk Day on Thursday, February 6th Inspector Nolan is sharing his story of childhood trauma and how he received counselling through the force.

Inspector Craig Nolan believes everyone, including police officers, have their own struggles and recognises the importance of speaking out.

He said:

“If you don’t talk to people, they can’t read your mind.

“Our officers are sorting out people’s lives but they also have their own challenges.”

– Inspector Craig Nolan

Inspector Nolan joined the police force for a personal reason and although he says this gave him empathy and the drive to help others, he found other people’s problems brought up difficult emotions of his own.

Inspector Nolan, 47, said:

“Growing up, I had a difficult childhood.

"I thought it was normal, but I noticed that my friend’s lives were a lot calmer and less fearful than mine was.

"I joined the police to stop other children from going through the trauma that I had gone through.”

– Inspector Craig Nolan

Inspector Nolan is a larger than life character who says he is "always the loudest person in the room".

But while working on a case involving a young boy, Inspector Nolan's mental health took a turn and past memories began to bubble up.

“I dealt with a case where a young boy was in a situation similar to what I had gone through”, he said.

“I thought ‘this is exactly why I’m here.’ But afterwards it sent me into a crash – so many memories I had hidden away started to come out.

“My behaviour at work was changing, I was less patient, less happy and I was drinking more.

"I’m always the loudest person in the room and my sergeant noticed something was wrong. That’s when I first had counselling through the police.

“When I saw the therapist all the emotions from the past were coming out. I was a mess, crying and shaking.

"So I had to develop a coping strategy. I was confident but I was scared.

"I’m a big guy and I’ve always tried to build a shell around me so I can’t be hurt.

“Part of the trauma from my childhood was me thinking I’m not good enough and that I can’t achieve anything.

"I’m constantly trying to prove to that inner demon that I’m better than that.”

– Inspector Craig Nolan

Inspector Nolan says he understands why men in particular might find it more difficult to speak out when they are struggling.

He said:

“As men we tend to be very quiet and just get on with it, because it’s seen as a strength to be able to control our emotions.

“It’s getting better – I think we’re talking more. I never would have spoken about this ten years ago.

"In the police we’ve come to a point now where we care so much for each other that those walls are being knocked down.”

– Inspector Craig Nolan

There is support for police officers who have dealt with difficult incidents, but Inspector Nolan feels it is also important to create a caring workplace where people feel able to be open.

“I’ve created an environment where people in my team want to talk to me. Had I not had the support myself, I might not have seen the value in doing that.

Whether you’re a police officer or not, the help is there. “I’m certain that with this change in culture, more and more people will seek support to help them through the chaos that life sometimes throws at us.”

– Inspector Craig Nolan

Time to Talk Day is held by the mental health charity Time to Change and aims to encourage conversations around mental health.

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