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Widespread stress and poor psychological wellbeing in service is 'truly alarming'

Police Oracle's BluePrint campaign is calling for officers to be given more support by the government.

Widespread stress and poor psychological wellbeing in service is 'truly alarming'

Date - 6th February 2017
By - Martin Buhagiar - Police Oracle
16 Comments 16 Comments}

An in-depth national survey reveals the astounding pressure police officers are under and illustrates how high demand is taking its toll on the service.

Analysis of the Police Federation’s officer demand, capacity and welfare survey, shows a 14 per cent fall in officer numbers over a seven-year period, from a high of 143,734 in 2009 to 124,066 in 2016.

PFEW Chairman Steve White called the findings “truly alarming” while its health and safety secretary John Murphy said “criminals were rubbing their hands together with glee” with so many officers believing they do not have the time to engage in proactive policing.

Amongst the findings:

  • 66 per cent of officers indicated their workload was too high
  • 33 per cent admitted being the victim of an unarmed physical attack at least once per month over the last year
  • 36 per cent reported being attacked with a weapon at least once in the last year
  • 70 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that they have enough time to engage in proactive policing
  • 80 per cent acknowledged experiencing feelings of stress, low mood, anxiety, or other mental health and wellbeing difficulties
  • 92 per cent of those indicated their psychological difficulties had been caused or made worse by work

Mr White said: “Officers should not be under so much pressure that their health and wellbeing is being compromised.

“Stress comes with most jobs but a line must be drawn.  For most officers, policing is a vocation they love - helping their communities and making a difference is what they signed up to do. 

“These results are truly alarming and we need to support and protect our officers who are out there doing a job in incredibly difficult circumstances.”

There were mixed views in the survey on the support offered by the police service for officers dealing with mental health and wellbeing issues, highlighting a need for training and development in these areas.

Mr White added:  “As a federation, we are looking at what further support can be offered to help support our members.”

A campaign by the Fed to Protect The Protectors begins today and is just one area where the organisation is seeking a change in legislation so that officers who are assaulted in the course of their duties are afforded better protection.

It will push for change alongside Police Oracle’s BluePrint campaign which calls on the government to fulfil its duty of protecting officers both in the job, and when they have been forced out of the service due to physical injuries or mental trauma.

Police Oracle will call on the Government to acknowledge and protect our unique service by introducing a Police Covenant.

PFEW’s Health and Safety secretary, John Murphy, leading in this area, said:  “It is little wonder officers feel stressed when 85 per cent felt their team does not have enough staff to manage demand. Criminals will be rubbing their hands together with glee to hear 70 per cent of officers felt they did not have time to engage in proactive policing.

“Policing now has far too many officers working under intolerable levels of stress and this is leading to long term illness.  We are seeing good officers making mistakes due to the pressure of work. 

“Ninety per cent of officers reported having attending for work in the last 12 months despite feeling they should take sick leave owing to the state of their physical health. Sixty-five per cent reported the same for psychological health – this is simply frightening and it is unfair to expect an officer with poor health to perform a full range of duties.

“The survey also highlighted that we really need to invest in our sergeants and inspectors to train them properly in how to deal with mental health and wellbeing difficulties. These are the ranks where the service has a real opportunity to identify potential problems and deal with them early.”

Faye McGuinness, Blue Light Programme Manager at mental health charity Mind, said: “We welcome this Police Federation survey data which shines a light on the high prevalence of stress and poor mental health among police officers. These figures reflect our own research which shows a huge proportion of staff and volunteers from across all the emergency services – police, fire, ambulance and search and rescue - are struggling with stress, low mood and poor mental health.

“We’re particularly concerned that of the 80 per cent of respondents who acknowledged having experienced feelings of stress, low mood, anxiety, or other mental health and wellbeing difficulties, 92 per cent indicated these difficulties had been caused or worsened by work. Employers have a really important role to play in ensuring all police officers are supported physically and emotionally to be at their best when carrying out their often challenging and life-saving roles.”

“For the last two years, Mind’s Blue Light Programme has been working with emergency services across England to prioritise the mental health of their staff and volunteers. We’ve helped thousands of staff and volunteers across emergency services in England to actively challenge mental health stigma, learn more about mental health and make positive changes in their approach to wellbeing.

“Many police forces have proactively engaged with the programme, for example by signing the Blue Light Time to Change pledge to demonstrate their commitment to taking workplace wellbeing seriously, but we still have a long way to go. For the first time this year we have additional funding which will allow us to deliver much-needed support to emergency services staff and volunteers in Wales, as well as extending our existing support to include 999 call-handlers and new recruits.”

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