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Why we all need to be able to ask for help – like David in the Bodyguard

‘I’m David and I need some help’ – in the powerful penultimate scene of the BBCs bodyguard we see David, having saved the day, head into Occupational Health and ask for help.

Occupational Health is the backbone of a healthy workforce, and as we have seen in the Bodyguard – in many organisations they are there to support workers in the most extreme of circumstances. One third of all our Occupational Medicine trainee doctors train in the Armed Forces, supporting those who train for and experience armed conflict first hand. There are large occupational health teams in the Police, Transport for London and Fire Service.

Professor Neil Greenberg, a consultant occupational and forensic psychiatrist who served in the United Kingdom Armed Forces for more than 23 years and has deployed, as a psychiatrist and researcher, in a number of hostile environments including Afghanistan and Iraq says;

“Occupational health physicians play a vital role in supporting the mental health of employees. It is very common that employees are concerned about seeking help because they fear being stigmatised or viewed as being weak or incompetent. In the BBC’s the Bodyguard, David repeatedly turned down offers by his colleagues and managers for them to send him to occupational health.

Luckily for David, and of course the viewers, his mental health difficulties did not stop him from uncovering the wrongdoings of corrupt senior officers. However, in reality people who have substantial mental health problems often do not perform to the high standard that David did. Where employees trust occupational health services to ‘have their back’ and consider that the Occupational physician will help them fight their corner to get the treatment they need whilst safeguarding their jobs, everyone wins. We can already see a fitter, more resilient David thanks to the great care he receives from his occupational health department!”

But the number of trained specialist doctors are falling, and the majority of small and medium sized organisations don’t have access to occupational health.

The Society of Occupational Medicine are calling for universal access to occupational health – because we all might at some point need help, but hopefully not in quite so dramatic fashion as David!