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Officer suicides exceed deaths on duty according to latest ONS figures

169 officers in England and Wales have committed suicide between 2011 and 2019, according to ONS figures. The Federation says mental wellbeing should now be taken as seriously as physical safety.

Officer suicides exceed deaths on duty according to latest ONS figures

Date - 25th November 2020
By - Chloe Livadeas
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Data from the most recent Office for National Statistics bulletin on suicides by occupation show there have been a total of 169 serving officers who took their own life between 2011 and 2019 - an average of around 21 deaths a year.

The officer safety review by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing, published in September, highlighted the 92 deaths on duty between 2008 and 2019 - an average of around eight deaths a year.

Suicides were not included in this number.

The college said monitoring the number of officer suicides is not in their remit and they do not hold any information or data on it.

Police Care UK were approached for comment, but said the college would be best placed to answer. 

Another gap in the data relates to the number of retired officer suicides, of which no figures are recorded.

National Association for Retired Police Officers (NARPO), Steve Edwards, said: “NARPO is concerned that data collected on police suicides does not differentiate between retired and active police officers. A career in the police is filled with stress and trauma but too often, it’s only after an officer retires that mental health and wellbeing issues become evident.

“This is why it’s critical that data on police suicides goes further to provide this level of detail. Without this data, the scale of the issue will continue to go unnoticed, denying retired police officers of the support and help that they deserve.”

The Federation warns policing can be “too dismissive” of mental health issues.

Police Federation of England and Wales’ Wellbeing Secretary Belinda Goodwin said: “As police officers we deal with trauma, danger and grief day in, day out. We see the very worst of humanity but are expected to leave it behind at the end of a shift and return to ‘normal’ life.

“Through our ‘Hear Man Up, Think Man Down’ campaign, we are encouraging colleagues to take each other’s mental wellbeing as seriously as they take each other’s physical safety.

“It could also be we are too dismissive of colleagues who may be showing signs of mental health issues – which could have drastic consequences.”

She said the Federation will continue to press police chiefs for change through frequent discussions, stressing the importance of implementing detailed plans on all aspects of welfare, including mental health, and to reassure officers that depression or suicidal thoughts won’t end a career.

She also cited initiatives like the Welfare Support Program that complement Hear Man Up, Think Man Down by offering services such as a dedicated helpline that struggling officers can be referred to.

“Forces must also act swiftly and effectively to help grieving colleagues because at the moment, their response is patchy at best," she said.

“If we can ensure officers in distress are properly supported and give worried colleagues or family members the tools to start a conversation, this will have a huge impact on people’s lives.”

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Grace - Thu, 26 November 2020

There needs to be information available as to if officers (all ranks) were under investigation at the time they took their life. I'm quite sure there will be a link for many of these deaths.