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

A record 13,263 officers were off work last year due to mental health

Police forces report a sharp hike in the number of officers signed off in 2021-2022

New figures show a huge leap in the number of UK police officers signed off due to stress, depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) over the past year, reflecting how the strains of policing are taking their toll.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that 13,263 officers took time off due to psychological illnesses in the financial year 2021/22.

This compares with 8,450 in the previous year and represents a massive 57% increase - and the figure is likely to be even higher as five forces either did not or could not respond.

It’s the highest annual number of officers signed off for psychological illness since Police Oracle began running the survey nine years ago.

Of the forces that responded to the survey, a worrying 35 out of 40 reported higher levels of absence than a year ago. The highest figures for officers signed off with mental health illness were unsurprisingly from the larger forces: Police Scotland (3,171); West Yorkshire Police (992); West Midlands Police (888); and Greater Manchester Police (727).

The biggest increases in mental health absence were reported by Police Scotland (up a staggering 773%); Gwent Police (up 448%); Lancashire Constabulary (up 173%); West Yorkshire Police (up 156%); Northamptonshire Police (up 126%); and Hertfordshire Constabulary (up 124%).

Belinda Goodwin, Wellbeing Secretary of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said she wasn’t surprised by the high figures when officers were under so much pressure.

She said: “Officers have to deal with traumatic incidents every day, but since the pandemic there’s been even more of a rise in stress levels. There was the anxiety that we thought we were going to bring Covid home to our loved ones; that had a massive impact.

“Then there was the fact that the NHS, rightly so, were seen as heroes, but we were seen as villains by some members of the public. But we were driving ambulances, we were going into hospitals, and we were dealing with copious amounts of sudden deaths.

“We also need to ask: what should the 21st-century cop be dealing with? We’re so often at mental health calls, spending more time sitting on guard at hospitals. The brunt of it is that all areas of policing are so under strain, it’s unbelievable.”

A recent PFEW landscape review found that most officers were able to access mental health support through their GP or their force’s Occupational Health or Employment Assistance Programme, but that there could be long waiting lists and the help wasn’t always tailored to officers’ particular needs.

Belinda highlighted the Federation-funded Welfare Support Programme, which helps officers who are struggling with their mental health, aiming to make contact with officers within a day of them being referred. The programme, run by Defence Medical, has dealt with more than 5,000 referrals in the past year and a half.

Forces need to be looking at prevention, not just cure, Belinda added. According to the PFEW’s latest Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey, 74% of officers were aware of force-provided reactive support services for mental health and wellbeing, but less than half were aware of proactive support services.

Belinda said: “We need to go back to the Chief Constables and say that the duty of care for the wellbeing of their officers lies with them. Forces have got to start collating the traumatic incidents that officers are going to, and they have to have meaningful one-to-ones with their supervisors, not just about performance, but checking people are OK.

“There needs to be more done within the Police Covenant through recruitment, during an officer’s career and at the end of their career. Once an officer does reach out for help, they’re already pretty broken.”

New recruits were increasingly stressed by the police constable degree apprenticeship (PCDA), Belinda added, meaning they were having to study alongside working in operational roles, and often not getting time off on their rest days.

At Leicestershire Police, new recruits get a special presentation on mental health from Kev Marsh, who was one of the first officers on the scene at 2018’s Leicester helicopter crash in which six people died. He struggled with his mental health following the incident and received help from the Welfare Support Programme.

Kev talks to new officers about where they can seek help, and the importance of having supportive supervisors, colleagues and family members who are looking out for them and who will notice if they’re acting out of character.

He said: “If an officer has been to a particularly horrific incident, it should be down to the supervisor to say: ‘I’m going to keep checking you’re alright – in a week, in a month, in three months, six months, and the anniversary of it happening.’”

Chief Constable Chris Rowley, Wellbeing Lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said that police chiefs were taking the issue extremely seriously.

He said: “As leaders, we have a responsibility to look after the people whose job it is to keep us all safe. As the stigma around mental health has slowly reduced in recent years, we have seen hidden issues emerge, such as high levels of stress and trauma, which can lead to serious problems if they are not properly addressed. The wellbeing of our officers is a priority for all police chiefs, and we are always listening to and acting upon the feedback from staff.”

CC Rowley said that a new national operational group supported by representatives from forces, in conjunction with staff associations including the Police Federation, is leading on work to identify best practice from forces around the country to support officers and staff.

He said: “One of the main focuses of the group will be to develop mechanisms that assist officers and staff to develop their own resilience to deal with the daily demands of policing. The College of Policing will support this work by developing policy and national guidance.”

CC Rowley added: “Oscar Kilo, with support from leading charities and staff associations, has already done crucial work to change attitudes towards mental health in policing.

“By providing services like occupational health provision, along with additional training and health checks, we have become better equipped to support the wellbeing of our officers and staff. Our work has already made a difference and more police officers and staff feel OK to say they’re not OK.”

 

2018/2019

2019/2020

2020/2021

2021/2022

Force

Number of Officers

 

 

Avon & Somerset

193

242

183

232

Bedfordshire

130

118

100

118

BTP

184

218

169

259

Cambridgeshire

121

153

127

144

Cheshire

174

192

163

220

City of London

no reply

36

19

22

Cleveland

155

192

163

203

Cumbria

no reply

86

69

71

Derbyshire

114

134

137

189

Devon & Cornwall

205

237

202

291

Dorset

129

103

98

135

Durham

87

115

271

86

Dyfed Powys

no reply

 

 

 

Essex

253

282

no reply

no reply

Gloucestershire

78

no reply

90

123

GMP

597

no reply

560

727

Gwent

148

107

23

126

Hampshire

225

234

197

295

Hertfordshire

177

174

100

224

Humberside

153

171

103

190

Kent

237

281

221

253

Lancashire

244

232

135

369

Leicestershire

180

139

217

no reply

Lincolnshire

no reply

110

96

111

Merseyside

252

65

187

no reply

Met

1221

1396

1135

180

MDP

 

117

no reply

no reply

Norfolk

162

108

169

143

Northern Ireland

449

645

312

571

North Wales

257

190

105

156

North Yorkshire

113

136

no reply

180

Northamptonshire

147

237

66

149

Northumbria

224

202

194

246

Nottinghamshire

205

214

No reply

214

Scotland

715

845

363

3171

South Wales

220

181

166

291

South Yorkshire

167

171

171

219

Staffordshire

143

126

123

144

Suffolk

153

127

114

111

Surrey

118

137

123

160

Sussex

223

no reply

182

298

TVP

400

452

414

489

Warwickshire

84

69

59

35

West Mercia

158

214

127

148

West Midlands

1251

193

534

888

West Yorkshire Police

479

391

388

992

Wiltshire

63

102

75

90

 

 

 

 

 

Total

10988

9874

8450

13263

Leave a Comment
View Comments 11
In Other News
A traditional British protest in the finest traditions but then…..
Cumbria officers save suicidal man
More than 370,000 Met working days lost to mental health
More News