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Meet me: James Mallows

I have been a Police Officer for around 20 years, working in a range of front line roles including response policing, proactive targeting teams, and as a custody sergeant. I have witnessed signifiant trauma and also led staff through major incidents and severe prolonged stress as well managing complex and dynamic risk.

I have been really fortunate in my career to have good coping strategies, and a very early life lesson from my Dad instilled the need for hobbies and interests to ensure a balanced and stress free life! I have always been active and found sports such as cycling, swimming and surfing a great way to keep well.

When Sam and I started Surfwell, the initial motivation came from a frustration at the lack of options available for supporting staff. We had both been managing a member of staff who was seriously assaulted on duty and who had tried to engage with the traditional offerings but was still struggling to cope and not able to face returning to duty.

The research phase of the programme highlighted how it’s so important to focus on true staff wellbeing. A higher rate of staff wellness translates directly to improved service delivery, in whatever sector they work in. The programme started at a time when sickness and mental ill health were rising sharply in Emergency Services across the UK.

This entire programme was aimed at helping our colleagues get back to work and perform their role to the best of their ability, using a surf therapy process which had achieved huge success in other sectors. The only difficulty was that nothing existed anywhere in the world purely for first responders, which we saw as a huge opportunity to develop a model which the Emergency Services community would be proud of and would be the start of a tide change in how we support those who have been struggling.

The front line and first responder role is so complex and the needs of emergency services workers are often incredibly unique. Those with first hand experience in first responder and emergency services communities are those who understand and can best relate to the issues.

An evidence base was essential for the development of a successful and effective programme to ensure that participants feel they are in a safe space to deal with any struggles. It is crucial for the instructors to be professional, extremely highly trained, but also to understand what it is like to be hurting mentally. The participants need to be able to have absolute confidence in their instructors to keep them physically safe in the water and mentally safe. This is where a magical and powerful bond is formed and it’s part of the process we have developed.

We have to be innovative in our approach to wellbeing and need to recognise the needs of the individual in order to provide true support. As instructors we all have our own experiences of participants who have had such a powerful and sometimes life changing experience from the programme. For me, there are several participants who have looked me in the eye and said the only reason they are still alive is because of the support they have received through Surfwell.

This is why we make absolutely no apologies for striving to be the best and providing the best service to our participants.

This is why we deliver world class surf therapy.

Do you feel like you could benefit from surf therapy?

> If you're part of the Blue Light community, find out more here.

> If you're interested as a private individual or for your employees, click here.

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