A Bedfordshire Police officer who was physically injured and mentally affected following a horrific car crash on duty has spoken about the mental health help he was given by Flint House. PC Ben Gates suffered five fractures to his right leg, 12 broken ribs, a shattered L5 vertebrae, and a cracked sternum when his response car careered off the road two years ago. He was also left with post-traumatic stress disorder that went undiagnosed until a GP pointed out that he needed support.
Ben said: “That element just came out of nowhere. I got myself back to work within six months, but I wasn’t frontline, I was on restricted duties. Covid’s played its part, too, being stuck within the same four walls. But I didn’t realise – I thought it was just boredom, frustration and pain. It was only when I spoke to my GP about medication for the pain that he said: ‘There’s something else here. We need to look at this’.”
Ben added that it was vital that forces continued to take wellbeing seriously, and that more officers needed to be aware that Flint House looked after mental, as well as physical, health. The Mental Health Team at Flint House helped Ben with Mental Health Support after the trauma hit “out of nowhere”. He said: “Two and a half years ago, on 10 June 2019, my colleague and I were responding to a job and it was 10pm at night, pitch black, with torrential rain. “Our patrol car left the road and we hit a tree at 63mph. The vehicle went onto its side. Just by luck, my colleague had put a seatbelt cutter in his stab vest that night. Once I’d cut myself from my seat I dragged myself into the back, and then the car caught fire. “We kicked the windscreen out, and the flames started to come through and the smoke started coming in. My colleague was mobile at that point, so he got himself out first, plus he’s got a wife and a kid, so I said: ‘Go, because you’re going to have to pull me out’. I knew I wasn’t much help to anybody. That was my last memory of being in the car.”After other motorists called the emergency services, a first responder arrived, followed by the Fire Brigade and an ambulance. Ben was in critical care for a week and had operations on his spine and leg. He was in a wheelchair for a while, but managed to return to work after six months. Then in September 2020 he came to Flint House for the first time.
He said: “By then I was back up and walking, but I was in a lot of pain. I still had metalwork in my spine and in my leg so I was very restricted in movement, everything was still early days. Just bending over would hurt. Everything I was doing on a daily basis was painful and it wasn’t possible to keep doing it.”Ben got the help he needed and kept in touch with physiotherapist Ellie Frank, who gave him exercises to do at home.
In October 2021, he came back to Flint House.“The main focus is making sure that I can use my body as best I can, for the longest time possible,” he said. “We’re looking at resilience – identifying what aggravates me, and seeing what I can and can’t do. “I’ve worked with Ellie for over a year now, and we can just be: ‘Right, what works? What doesn’t?’. It’s really good.
And then [rehabilitation therapist] Ronan gives me tough love in the gym.”
Ben is pictured with his Daschund Jax who he owns with wife Lucy.
Find out more about our mental health support programme: https://www.flinthouse.co.uk/get-support