Trauma and Loss Coach Robyn Ramsell
“My name is Robyn and I work as a coach. My speciality I’d say is trauma and loss.” Robyn was a police officer for just under seven years. Robyn served firstly with The Met Police and then out in the counties with Thames Valley Police. Now Robyn uses her own experiences to help other emergency service workers, particularly those who have been through formal counselling or therapy and now want to move forward positively.
“I loved being police officer, and I am really, really proud to have served,” says Robyn. “The biggest challenge I had was I wasn’t mentally equipped to manage what I was exposed to. My policing career wasn’t extraordinary. It was normal day to day policing doing what girls and boys are out there doing as we speak. And while there’s obviously the major incidents, it was the constant drip, drip, drip of things that you see in the sadness and the human pain.”
Hitting breaking point
Without any healthy way of managing what she saw, Robyn would go home and drink. “In 2015 I had what I described as a breakdown, and I was diagnosed with PTSD,” she says. “There were two major things really that made me see what had happened. Firstly, a fantastic colleague of mine took me to one side on a night shift and just said, “You’re not yourself, what’s wrong?”. And it was the first time that someone had actually asked the question in a way that felt like they really meant it. Then he waited for the answer.”
Robyn realised that she was angry with everything and had begun to put herself in dangerous situations. “I had zero regard for my own safety. I would go into situations on my I probably shouldn’t. It was almost like I was constantly in a red mist, constantly fighting for me. The second was that my husband said to me that I changed as I put my uniform on, that he could watch me physically harden as I did this, and unfortunately that hardness didn’t always stay at work. At that point the damage was done and I resigned,” she says.
Since leaving the police Robyn has worked as a coach for a housing association, formalised her qualifications in coaching, and now wants to be part of the solution. “There is, in my opinion, a mental health crisis within the emergency services, particularly police officers. Suicide rates are high and just not necessary,” she says. “It’s not a case of getting counselling, there is counselling available and it’s brilliant, but you need to learn how to manage with seeing that fatal car crash, you need to learn how to manage being called everything under the sun people spitting in your face. You just need to be able to process that in a really healthy way, which I personally don’t think you’re taught.”
From a personal recovery perspective there was a lot of support made available. “The police were really good. They referred me to a psychiatrist and I saw a mental health nurse. So I did a lot of what I refer to as traditional therapy,” says Robyn. “It was great. We went over what had happened and how I was feeling, and then we went over it and over it and over it. I got to the point where I needed more.” Robyn knew that what was going to help her now was moving forward and that’s where she discovered coaching.
Tips for dealing with trauma and loss
“It’s really easy to sit here and say talk. I know when I was in the situation, the last thing I wanted to do was talk to anyone about it but that’s the best thing I could have done,” says Robyn. “I think the more people that talk, and the more open we become, about the effects of trauma and loss and grief and dying, the more comfortable we will get with helping ourselves. Trauma is not a dirty word and it shouldn’t be a taboo subject, but I believe it is still. So yes, my number one would be talk to anyone, even if, to start with, it’s the dog or the cat, anyone, but say it out loud.”
“Number two is check in with your mates. If you’re in a job, particularly the police or frontline emergency services, and someone seems like they’re a bit off, or they’re really grumpy, take the time to buy them a cup of tea or coffee and say, “mate, are you okay?”. Really mean it and be prepared for the answer. You’ve got to look out for each other. We’re very good at saying hashtag, it’s okay not to be okay. But what are we actually doing to help each other?,” says Robyn.
“My final tip is, if you’re struggling, it doesn’t have to just be traditional counselling. You don’t have to just go and see a counsellor or a psychologist. There are things you can do for yourself,” says Robyn. “Get yourself prepared for the future, get yourself strong. It’s about arming yourself with mental strength. When you get ready for work you put all your kit on. But it’s the kit up there, which is really going to keep you going and keep you really well. So we go for the run, we go to the gym. Mindfulness works for some as well. But yes, I would say that’s, that’s my top three.”