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Avon & Somerset Police Federation

Police service facing mental health epidemic as officers take 500,000 days off sick

8 September 2022

The police service is facing a “mental health epidemic”, Avon and Somerset Police Federation has warned. 

Mark Loker, Federation Chair, hit out at inadequate support for officers, after it emerged that nationally officers took 500,000 days off sick with poor mental health in the year ending in March. 

He said: “It breaks my heart when I hear senior leadership teams stating that their officers have a duty of personal responsibility to be proactive in regards to their own mental health and mental wellbeing. That is ridiculous. Where is the duty? Where is the care?

“Our Occupational Health department is at breaking point and nothing is done about it, apart from a meeting here, a meeting there. Ironically caring is a force value. I hate hearing ‘we care’ uttered these days. Saying it doesn’t make it so when there are no actions to support the words.” 

Mark warned that officers are suffering from stress and burnout, thanks to years of underfunding under the Conservatives that has left the thin blue line “stretched to breaking point”. 

He added: “This is having a catastrophic impact on the welfare of officers. The Government must tackle the growing mental health epidemic affecting our police and prioritise that support is available quickly for those who need it.

“It is very well documented that in a lifetime the average member of the public may experience only 3 or 4 traumatic incidents, however the National Police Chiefs’ Council recognise that officers are likely to encounter up to 600 traumatic incidents in their career.”

Around a third of police officers in the UK have symptoms consistent with PTSD or complex PTSD, with the being completely unaware of their symptoms, Mark added. 

He said: “Last year, 183 officers in our force were absent for either stress, depression anxiety or PTSD. These are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and friends, but only ever highlighted as a number or a statistic, where is the care?

“It is critical that wellbeing is placed above operational needs to in fact ensure the success of operational tasks. After all if our police officers are not physically and mentally supported

this reflects on the delivery of our service to members of public, at the rate we are going we

would need an uplift to backfill the uplift because we are breaking more than we recruit. So my plea to the senior leaders ship, please less ‘we care’ and more ‘I care’ and take responsibility for teams, your words and your actions.”