We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

Shift wellbeing reviews in CoP plans to combat suicides

Health screening and shift reviews are on the way in a bid to reduce suicide risks.

Plans for the first-ever suicide prevention strategy for officers have been revealed by the College of Policing.

For the first time, policing has officially acknowledged the risk of officer suicide and set out how it will reduce deaths.

The College set out 11 factors that could lead to an officer or staff member taking their own life.

Plans include assessments of shift patterns, culture change programmes to encourage self-care and better data recording of officer deaths.

A joint statement led by the College of Policing and police wellbeing service Oscar Kilo set out plans to identify earlier officers at risk and ways to support them.

Oscar Kilo Service Director and former Chief Constable and Andy Rhodes, said: “Our suicide prevention approach recognises the vital role these preventative activities play in helping to reduce escalation into mental health crisis, whilst acknowledging there is more to do.

“The suicide prevention consensus will address gaps in awareness, education and data collection specific to suicide and allow us to ensure that we are doing everything we can to support police forces, making sure they have the tools and guidance they need to support their staff.”

The consensus statement was supported by the College of Policing, National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Home Office, Unison, Police Federation and Police Superintendents Association.

It detailed both proposals to build on existing work to improve staff mental health and wellbeing and set out the current landscape.

According to official data, 163 police officers’ deaths between 2011 and 2019 were classified as suicide.

Of those, 146 were men and the remaining 17 were women. In addition, the deaths of two male police community support officers (PCSOs) were also classified as suicide during this period.

The common risk factors include:

But the report also warned: “There is also evidence to suggest that those who work in policing – in particular, police officers – have higher expectations of their natural ability to respond to stress and trauma. These false expectations of themselves could, alongside other risk factors as suggested above, make them more vulnerable to suicide.”

Proposals cover direct help for staff plus support for family and friends and a commitment to improve the way data on staff deaths or serious injuries are recorded.

Written by Dr Yvonne Taylor, Chief Inspector at the National Police Wellbeing Service, it proposes measures including regular reviews of shift patterns and working hours.

Other plans include the introduction of health screening in high-risk roles and best practice in prevention being shared across forces.

After years of ignoring mental health as an issue, forces are rapidly catching up. This is the latest stage of a response that followed revealtions on the high number of officer deaths.

Factors included killer commutes but until now, there has been no formal acknowledgement of suicides.

It comes barely a week after a force revealed that an officer awaiting a criminal trial for assaulting a teenaged football fan had been found dead.

Martin Hewitt, NPCC Chair said force leaders were firmly behind the initiative to bring meaningful change: “Policing is by its nature a stressful job and officers are exposed to some of life’s most challenging situations on a daily basis. As leaders, we have a responsibility to look after the people whose job it is to keep us all safe.”

A next steps document will follow that is likely to include guidance for forces to implement.

College of Policing Chief Executive Andy Marsh was one of the first to demand forces do more to improve the mental health of employees who are regularly exposed to risk and trauma.

He said: “We joined the service to protect people and this must include our own staff. Despite our differing roles in policing, we are all leaders and have a responsibility to look out for the welfare of colleagues and remember that if we are suffering ourselves there is help available.” 

He added: “There is more to do, but I want officers and police staff to be reassured that we will continue our work to give the service the best guidance and tools, informed by evidence, to support them and prevent a mental health crisis in its tracks.”

Leave a Comment
View Comments 11
In Other News
Chiefs back family support improvements for officer suicides
NPCC-backed study to assess impact of abuse cases on staff
Oscar Kilo launches Covid rehabilitation programme
CoP joins policing podcast revolution
South Yorks officer found dead
Zero pay award 'the last straw' for officer morale, survey shows
Seven wellbeing ambassadors take message to frontline
Officer down? A helping hand is closer than people realise
Ask for help if the New Year low has hit, officers urged
Comment: We're determined to do more for frontline wellbeing
More News