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Police Scotland mental health absences ‘up by 22% in five years’

Officers in the force are at risk of “burnout”, Federation chairman David Hamilton has said.

The number of days off due to mental illness for Scottish officers has soared by 22% in the last five years.

A total of 76,848 days off were recorded by officers and staff as a result of “psychological disorders”.

It compares with five years ago, when 62,783 days off were recorded for the same reason. Since 2017/18 more than 350,000 mental health absences have been recorded, according to statistics published in the 1919 magazine.

Officers are beginning to “fail” and struggle with their tasks as a result of “critical” stress levels, Scottish Police Federation chairman David Hamilton said.

One anonymous officer said morale within the force was at “rock bottom”, while another said: “I find myself taking longer and longer to recover from incidents and my mood is often up and down.”

Mr Hamilton said: “The problem is that the service’s response to wellbeing has been very reactive when what we need to do is stop problems happening in the first place.

“We are constantly putting plasters on to stop the bleeding when we need to prevent the bleeding in the first place.

“The challenge highlighted in our evidence and in the surveys that we and Police Scotland have carried out is that people are burning out because they are so busy with work – not least dealing with mental health calls – that they are not getting the chance to get away from it.”

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor told 1919 magazine: “Policing is a relentless but rewarding vocation which places significant demand on physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

“Our people are highly motivated by public service and they work tirelessly to improve the lives of people and communities in Scotland every day, against backdrop of increasing demand.

“The safety and wellbeing of officers and staff – and their families – is a priority for Police Scotland and we have a range of mechanisms to support our people across their psychological, physical, financial and social wellbeing.”

It comes as the force is also seeing record numbers of leavers over 50 following the pension changes earlier this year. At the start of May, officer figures reached their lowest level since 2008.

As a result, the force said they are having to de-prioritise certain longer-term work including digital, to make sure frontline policing is maintained.

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