Number of officers suffering from stress is “real concern”

Posted on July 21, 2016 | Category :Uncategorized | Comments Off

Low key image of a bearded man with a headache

THE number of officers being signed off from Devon and Cornwall Police for stress-related illnesses is a real concern and more officers could be suffering in silence.

A Freedom of Information request showed that 163 officers were signed off from the force in 2015/16 for mental health-related illnesses, including stress, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Local Federation Chairman Nigel Rabbitts said: “That’s of real concern for us, and I think you’ll find that that actually figure for psychological disorders is growing.

“The overall sickness rate for officers isn’t but I think the number of psychological disorders is, and of course that is people who have actually been signed off sick.

“The knock-on effect is that with their return to work plans we have considerably more of that, more of those officers who are actually now restricted on recuperative duties, so that doesn’t really reflect the number of officers who are not available for frontline policing.

“I think the stigma for mental illness is still there, but I have got to praise the force here because they have brought in a considerable amount of work around mental wellbeing which shows some success.

“Really this is why we would ask officers to do the next survey because when you’ve actually got real evidence they have to take notice.”

Nationally, 8,632 officers were signed off work in the past year for stress-related illnesses in 43 forces including Police Scotland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and British Transport Police.

That is an increase of 14% from comparable forces who responded to the same FOI last year.

Four forces had more than 500 officers signed off with stress-related illness last year – the Met (1,021), Scotland (760), West Midlands (613) and Greater Manchester (505).

Five forces recorded a drop in the number of officers off sick with stress-related illness – Kent (240 to 210), Suffolk (55 to 49), Thames Valley (217 to 215), Warwickshire (54 to 44) and Wiltshire (80 to 54). City of London Police had the fewest officers signed off, at 23.

The Police Federation of England and Wales said the service must “put more effort” into ensuring officers’ welfare.

Its own welfare survey showed that 62% of officers said they never or rarely felt optimistic and 60% never or rarely felt relaxed; 29% of those who had been off work sick in the previous 12 months said one or more days had been due to stress, depression or anxiety. And almost two thirds of officers said they still went to work even though they felt they shouldn’t have because of the state of their mental wellbeing.