THE only independent candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner has pledged to make mental health a priority if he is elected to the role.

Former police officer and now businessman Mike Rees says he has "always been committed to improving mental health and wellbeing support within Wiltshire Police", and he recently reiterated that support when meeting mental health campaigner Steve Carr from Mindcanyon.

Both Mike and Steve, who lives in Swindon, have a passion for helping those who have struggled with their mental health.

Steve said: “Mike has a very keen interest in mental health, which comes from his history and involvement within the police force. Today I support others with their mental health as I’ve been through some very traumatic experiences myself. This motivated me to help others.”

Steve’s brother was killed in an accident in Swindon with four other children in the early 1990s.

Known locally as the Akers Way accident, it was one of the most horrific incidents in the town’s recent history. The impact of this loss, led Steve down a path of depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts.

“Losing my elder brother was the catalyst to my own problems. This devastating event had a lasting impact on many people’s mental health and lives,” Steve said.

"Since then, having spoken to one of the first officers on the scene that day, I had many questions, including; how did you cope after an event like this and what support or services were offered to officers to process after the event.

"The officer informed there were no such things as mental health first aiders or suicide prevention trained staff back then to speak to, you just got on with things.”

Salisbury Journal: Mike Rees, independant candidate for Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner supported by Steve Fulcher. Photographs taken by Barbara Leatham Photography on January 28th 2021 in Salisbury Wiltshire. Photos taken outside Salisbury Cathedral, Market

Mike said" “Steve shared his own history in relation to trauma, addiction, homelessness and his attempt to take his own life. With counselling and help, he came through this dark period in his life.

“As if his life experience wasn’t enough, he then obtained all the necessary qualifications to enable him to set up Mindcanyon where he now helps others. During my 30 years of service, we were never given any inputs in relation to mental health, the signs of poor mental health in others or identifying possible suicidal indicators.”

Both Mike and Steve feel there needs to be "more proactive and reactive mental health interventions in the police force that help front line staff deal with trauma".

Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election, Mike has pledged to attend a mental health first aid course himself with Steve in September.

Get more Salisbury news

You can also like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date.

If you want online news with fewer ads, unlimited access and reader rewards - plus a chance to support our local journalism - find out more about registering or a digital subscription.

Email with your comments, pictures, letters and news stories.