Police recruit determined to get into force after being denied entry for taking anti-depressants

Chris Renwick was denied the chance to enter the police force because he was taking anti-depressants.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Chris Renwick was denied the chance to enter the police force because he was taking anti-depressants.

Would-be cop Chris Renwick was turned away from the police force for taking anti-depressants, but he's not taking the rejection lying down.

Renwick, 27, has been left wondering "why the hell would I ever look for help again" after his admission that he was on low-dose meds meant he could not go to police college, after police barred recruits from taking any anti-depressants.

The Masterton man said he had achieved excellent marks in his initial training, and spent hundreds of dollars on study material, but now faced a two year stand down before he could apply again. 

Chris Renwick still wants to get into the police force, despite being refused entry for taking anti-depressants.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Chris Renwick still wants to get into the police force, despite being refused entry for taking anti-depressants.

"I am basically being told I am a headcase. Should I have just kept quiet?"

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Police deputy chief executive of people Kaye Ryan says police take the mental wellbeing of officers "extremely seriously".
SIMON MAUDE/STUFF

Police deputy chief executive of people Kaye Ryan says police take the mental wellbeing of officers "extremely seriously".

But in a major U-turn, police said on Saturday they were considering revoking the policy, and would make a final decision within weeks. 

Renwick started taking the drug Citalopram after his father suffered a serious head injury. Renwick became a permanent carer for his dad, and said doctors prescribed a low dose of the anti-depressant.

He began applying for police training, including physical and mental tests and an online training course to get ready for police college.

He informed police he was on Citalopram in his application, and was rejected even though he also supplied a letter from his doctor saying he was okay to come off the drug and also that he would make a fine police officer. He has since come off the medication.

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Renwick said the system was failing people with mental illness.

Renwick said: "Looking back now why the hell would I ever look for help again?"

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said people who had lived with the experience of mental illness often had more resilience and compassion, qualities the organisation believed were valuable in policing. 

"Recruits are not children, they do not need blanket bans to protect them from themselves. Each potential recruit can use their judgement, in partnership with their doctor if necessary, as to whether they can cope with the stress of being a police officer.

"We believe the New Zealand police will be stronger if they change this policy and welcome the news it is under consideration."

Renwick, who won the Wairarapa senior club rugby championship with his club Gladstone on Saturday, said it was still his dream to join the police force, and he would continue to try and be admitted. 

Police deputy chief executive of people Kaye Ryan said police took took mental wellbeing of its officers "extremely seriously".

She said police had received independent advice from registered medical professionals who recommended police require recruits to have two full years off antidepressants. 

Recruits were given real life situations to deal with, some of which could be distressing and challenging, she said.

"A recruit, who hasn't been exposed to these types of events previously, could be triggered if they suffer, or have suffered, from mental distress," said Ryan.

"The nature of police work means police officers are often running towards danger, taking calculated risks and dealing with members of the public when they are in the greatest need of assistance.

"Officers may be affected by this and there certainly are some staff who use antidepressants and counselling to deal with their emotions and manage their wellbeing in a healthy manner."

Police had various systems in place to help officers suffering mental distress.

"Police officers rely heavily on their colleagues to support them and help keep them safe when they are facing a potentially dangerous job and they need to be confident that their colleagues are fit and able - mentally as well as physically - to do this."

*Comments on this article have been closed

 - Sunday Star Times

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