PM's mental health reforms welcome but 'still a huge problem for police'

09 January 2017

Theresa May’s mental health reforms are a step in the right direction but society needs to recognise the scale of the problem which is blighting large sections of the police service.

Following on from the PM’s speech today to the Charity Commission, Steve White, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said: “Mental health issues are of huge concern to the young, the elderly and all public sector services.

“There needs to be proper investment in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues to both assist officers who manage individuals with mental health issues and, equally, assist officers who suffer with mental health related issues themselves.”

“The use of police cells as a place of safety has more than halved in one year but there are still problems facing custody officers who are dealing with mentally ill detainees because the appropriate NHS or social care resources are too often not available. And the issue is not just confined to custody as the police are usually the first to be called when there is an issue out on the streets.”

Last month it was revealed that more than a million work days were lost in the police service over the least three years to mental health-related illness. The finding echoed a PFEW survey on officer welfare last year which showed that the mental wellbeing of police officers was considerably poorer than that of the general public.

Nearly two thirds of officers (65%) still went to work even though they felt they shouldn’t because of the state of their mental wellbeing. More worryingly, almost half (42%) felt they were poorly, or very poorly supported by the service when they did seek help.

Mr White added: “Some progress has been made but we are still seeing major inconsistencies in how sufferers are treated in forces and also the resources that are available to help them.”

The Police Federation of England and Wales has taken steps to better understand the issues that exist. Further evidence from the survey, due to be published at the end of this month, will be used to push leaders to improve the support given to officers and staff.