Local retreats for burnt out police officers

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When former West Midlands Police detective Hannah Bailey was diagnosed with cancer she says she was "dropped into hell" but she also felt relief. It was the sign she needed to overhaul her life and stress levels. She retrained in BWRT psychology and psychopathology to help others. Now she runs Blue Light Wellbeing offering 121 support and retreats for individuals and ex-services personnel.

A former West Midlands Police detective says she was "dropped into hell" when she was diagnosed with cancer. But Hannah Bailey, now 47, says her diagnosis was also a catalyst for change.

In 2011, she says she was stressed and burnt out from her work as a police detective. Hannah would often become tearful at home, struggling with anxiety, fatigue and horrific nightmares. So when a niggling lump in her left breast was diagnosed as cancer - once she recovered from the initial shock and distress - Hannah says she also felt relief. It was a chance to have some time off work and reflect.

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During the course of her treatment Hannah quit the force and focused on her own wellbeing which led to her training in psychology and psychopathology to help others. Now she runs Blue Light Wellbeing, a bespoke mental health and wellbeing service using BWRT (brain working recursive therapy) - a broad spectrum therapy that provides an amazingly fast resolution for the majority of issues from the simple phobia to catastrophic PTSD. As part of her offering Hannah has started hosting retreats too. The most recent was held at Cotswolds Park Barns in Cirencester on April 26-28th.

Attendees at a Blue Light Wellbeing retreatAttendees at a Blue Light Wellbeing retreat
Attendees at a Blue Light Wellbeing retreat

Before that Hannah and her attendees visited Wootton Park Wellness in Warwickshire on September 26-28th 2023. Hannah said: "I finally feel both the passion and commitment to my job and like I have some balance in my work and home life.

"After being diagnosed with cancer and feeling relief I knew it was time to do something about my lifestyle.

“It slowly dawned on me that I would now be on long term sick from work, and that meant an escape from the workload, the victims, the court files and the daily battles at work in the police.

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“I think this was the first time that I started to realise just how bad things had been at work and how badly I wanted change."

Attendees at a Blue Light Wellbeing retreat in natureAttendees at a Blue Light Wellbeing retreat in nature
Attendees at a Blue Light Wellbeing retreat in nature

It was 9th June 2011 when Hannah was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 34. She said: “It was like being dropped into hell without any warning that you might be going there.

"My family were shell shocked. My daughter was three at the time and my son was six and we had to tell them something as I was going to have surgery, so we told them I wasn't feeling well and would be better after having an operation."

Hannah was signed off work and given full pay for nine months while off sick from work having surgery to remove the lump, partial lymph node clearance in July, and chemotherapy treatment starting in August and running through to the end of the year. Hannah says the NHS and her bosses were kind and supportive but there were no processes in place to help her cope mentally or emotionally. She returned to work feeling traumatised and vulnerable. She said: “I was wearing a wig when I returned to work as I had lost my hair during chemotherapy.

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"I felt incredibly self-conscious and worried constantly that if I went to a job or arrested a prisoner that my wig might be pulled off. “That might seem silly to anyone else but it mattered a lot to me, and there was no one to talk through these concerns with.”

Hannah's passing out parade April 1999, aged 22.Hannah's passing out parade April 1999, aged 22.
Hannah's passing out parade April 1999, aged 22.

Then just three months after returning to work Hannah's cancer returned. It was June 2012 when she found another lump in her breast.

Hannah said: "I underwent a full mastectomy and reconstruction of my left breast, full lymph node clearance and I received a pioneering cancer treatment in Germany called dendritic cell vaccine therapy – an alternative to chemo.

"After another nine months off I was due to return to the police but it felt impossible.

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"During my time off I had realised that working was making me sick. The stress and lifestyle was literally killing me."

Hannah Bailey BWRT therapistHannah Bailey BWRT therapist
Hannah Bailey BWRT therapist

In March 2013 she made the decision to resign and focused on her wellbeing and restorative therapies and treatments. Hannah said: "I overhauled my life, I tried lots of healing and wellness therapies, I changed my diet and my mindset.

"I felt brand new. In 2015 I decided to retrain as a well-being coach and psychotherapist to help other burnt out emergency workers to process their work stresses and PTSD symptoms."

Hannah trained in BWRT – a new model of psychology and psychopathology developed by Terence Watts in 2011.

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Hannah said: "My area of speciality is working with Emergency Services personnel because of my experience but I can help all clients with their mental health or wellbeing needs, covering a wide range of issues such as anxiety, depression, stressful or traumatic experiences, fears, phobias and negative patterns of behaviour. I hold qualifications in BWRT Level 1 and 2, Level 6 in Trauma Therapy, Wellbeing Coaching, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and PTSD Counselling."

While retraining and setting up her own company, Blue Light Well-being, Hannah continued with her alternative cancer treatment in Germany on a monthly basis until her final visit in 2019.

Hannah said: "At first I had a lot of anger and resentment towards the police force but since dealing with my PTSD symptoms I don't feel negatively about the police service. I want to help.

“I think forces are trying to make changes but more can be done to support officers with mental health challenges and stress management.

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“Ultimately we do need to take responsibility and seek out the help that will be right for us and our own well-being and mental health.”

Hannah now offers residential retreats for emergency services workers and leavers who are looking for some support and community to help with their mental health. She added: It is and honour to hold this amazing space with my co-host Andy Labrum to show our incredible police and emergency service workers just how healing it is to let go, be vulnerable, share, breathe, listen, laugh and love.

"We share good food and our stories, we laugh, we hug, we cry (always good tears) we walk in nature and talk. There are ice baths and fireside chats. All of this helps to start healing and recovering.

"It's a privilege to remind our attendees how important they are to so many."

To find out more about future events you can follow Hannah on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BlueLightWellbeing