INDEPENDENT Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Mike Rees has pledged to make mental health a top priority if elected.

The former detective turned businessman has said he has always been committed to improving the mental health and wellbeing within the force.

A belief he firmly reiterated when meeting with mental health campaigner Steve Carr from Mindcanyon.

Mr Carr 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 90s.

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.

“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,” he continued.

“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.”

Mr Rees 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.”

Mike has already committed to support Green Ribbon Policing, a campaign calling for a national standard in mental welfare care in UK policing.

He said: “It will require investment, but when you look at the annual cost to employers in the UK (£45m) through mental health issues, investment in the mental well-being of staff is not only important to their welfare, but cost-effective.”