70% more officers taking time off for mental health illness

NEARLY 70% more police officers took time off for stress, depression or with PTSD symptoms last year compared to six years ago, worrying new figures show.

Across the UK nearly 11,000 officers had to take time away from their duties to deal with mental health issues over the past year, Police Oracle has reported.

The statistic works out at around one in 13 officers.

A total of 6,294 officers were signed off on sick leave for psychological illnesses in 2012, but that rocketed to 10,684 over the financial year 2018/2019.

The Police Oracle Freedom of Information request also shows a 9% increase in officers being signed off sick for mental health reasons in the past year.

There were 650 more cases in West Midlands Police over the past year, while numbers almost doubled in North Wales to 257 cases.

Only British Transport Police reported a drop in figures.

Richard Cooke, Chairman of West Midlands Police Federation, told Police Oracle that officers are ‘broken and emotionally exhausted’.

He said: “People have got far too heavy workloads, which contain a lot of risk, and that’s weighing very heavily on their minds. The problem is that the relentlessness of the demand leaves absolutely no time because officers are going from one job to the next job, to the next, with no time to in between, to download, to discuss, to reflect.”

Nearly one in five police officers and staff in the UK have symptoms consistent with either post-traumatic stress disorder or what is known as “complex PTSD”, a recent Cambridge University and Police Care study recently found – with the majority of those unaware of the diagnosis.

Ché Donald, Vice-Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales told Police Oracle: “Complex PTSD is more prevalent in an environment where you are subjected to repeated exposure to traumatic events. By the nature of policing, the day job is going out and dealing with trauma and when you factor in that… 76% of officers are almost always single crewed, where is the ability to off-load and to decompress after dealing with those incidents? Where is the ability to recover?

“Officers are experiencing an increase in cancelled rest days, it is harder for them to take leave, we are seeing increases in presenteeism, the fatigue index is going to be higher and when you take all of this together you are going to have an increased susceptibility to complex PTSD.”

The Home Office said more is being done to help officers through the Oskar Kilo National Police Wellbeing Service.