Pandemic has impact on officers’ mental health

More than three quarters of police officers have admitted experiencing mental health and wellbeing difficulties in the last year as the impact of policing the pandemic becomes clear, a report has found.

The report from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), which follows a survey of 12,471 rank and file police officers,  found 69 per cent of all respondents linked “work-related difficulties” to their distress. 

Of these respondents, 58 per cent had experienced work-related mental health and wellbeing difficulties and cited heavy workloads as a factor.

The report also highlighted the gap between officers who sought help and those who chose not to, with just one in five respondents saying they asked for help. 

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 that proactive support services were having a constructive impact.

It found 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 Programme by Mind, Oscar Kilo, and the Federation’s Welfare Support Programme the most recognisable.

South Wales Police Federation chair Steve Treharne said: “The mental health and wellbeing of our members is, and always will be, one of our top priorities. It has become clear that officers who put their lives on the line to protect our communities are feeling the impact of policing the pandemic and must be given the full protection and support of the Government, the police service, their chief officers, the Federation and their colleagues.

“There should be no embarrassment in asking for help and there is a whole range of support services available to officers who need a little help to see them through.

“It is vitally important that our members know they are not alone and they should not be afraid to seek help if they feel the pressure on them is getting too much. The Federation is always here to listen, offer help and assist people in finding tailored support.”

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.”

Read the full report.