Policing the pandemic has taken a major toll on police officers with more than three quarters admitting to having experienced mental health or wellbeing difficulties in the past year.
The devastating impact was detailed in a new report from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) which followed a survey of 12,471 rank and file police officers.
The report revealed 69 per cent of all respondents linked ‘work-related difficulties’ to their distress. Of these respondents, 58 per cent experienced work-related mental health and wellbeing difficulties and cited heavy workloads as a factor.
The survey also illustrated a gap between those officers who sought help and those who chose not to do so, with just one in five respondents admitting to asking for help to manage their mental health and wellbeing. A perceived stigma around declaring mental health or wellbeing issues within policing was also evident, with 41 per cent of those who had received help admitting they didn’t share this information with their line manager, because they didn’t want to be treated differently in the workplace.
More positively, the results showed the police service was playing an increasing role in combating mental health issues, and proactive support services were having a constructive impact.
71 per cent of those who sought help for mental health and wellbeing had disclosed this information to line managers, with 67 per cent claiming they were ‘adequately’ supported by the police service after doing so.
A total of 74 per cent indicated they were aware of force provided support services, such as resilience training, mindfulness workshops, and mental health awareness programmes.
Officers who responded to the survey were asked about their awareness of national support initiatives within policing, with the Blue Light Project by Mind, Oscar Kilo, and PFEW’s Welfare Support Programme the most recognisable.
PFEW National Chair John Apter said: “The pandemic has put pressure on policing like never before. But while the negative impact on the mental health of police officers comes as no surprise, it should sound alarm bells.
“Police officers often feel as though their concerns are irrelevant. Policing and government therefore must do much more to make sure they can more easily access the support they deserve.
“On a positive note, there is more mental health and wellbeing support available than ever before -and it’s clear from the evidence more officers are seeking support.
“But we need to remove the stigma around these issues. We have to ensure every officer knows where they can reach out and get support no matter what time of day or night they need it.
“The Police Covenant, which is currently going through parliament, is the perfect opportunity to ensure that help and support is provided to officers. That’s why it is essential that what the Covenant delivers is both tangible and meaningful.”