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Devon & Cornwall Police Federation

Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survery: More than three quarters of police officer have experienced mental health issues

29 January 2021

More than three quarters of police officers who responded to a new survey say they have experienced mental health illnesses and wellbeing issues, new research has found. 
77 per cent of respondents to the PFEW’s 2020 Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey reported mental health illnesses, and the majority (90 per cent) of these said psychological difficulties had been caused, or made worse, by working within policing.
A total of 32 per cent of officers who had taken sick leave, had done so due to stress, depression, or anxiety, while over half of the respondents (60 per cent) said their workload was too high.
Andy Berry, Chairman of Devon and Cornwall Police Federation said police officers “deal with the horrible side of life of which the public are blissfully unaware.”  
He said: “Decapitated bodies as the results of road traffic collisions, hangings, child rape, passing death messages, having to review child sexual abuse to prepare prosecution cases. All of this takes its toll on an officer’s soul. Add to this unrelenting workloads and shift patterns it is no wonder that so many officers, and police staff for that matter, develop mental ill health. 
“Personally I think that my own force are really alive to these issues and do some great work. 
“The prospect of a ‘Policing Covenant’ could also bring wider benefits but the reality is that policing is all about people and the number of officers available to undertake work remains a key issue for me. In my view this has not been resolved by this Government’s reinvestment following the decade of austerity.
“With our ‘extra’ officers we are still not back to where we were and yet the demand, and nature of demand has increased. Ultimately no amount of wellness and mental health support can mitigate stifling workloads or the stress of persistently dealing with human trauma.” 
More than half of officers said they had found it difficult to carry out duties and tasks because they have been ‘too fatigued,’ while 39 per cent of respondents reported they were never, or rarely able, to take full rest breaks, the research found. 
Andy said he has been working on this issue since 2018: “The force was receptive and even amended its deployment policy to support officers taking their breaks. But again in some roles, particularly those responding to the calls from the public or investigating volume crime it can be a real challenge to take a break. 
“Officers don’t want to let the public down and most tell me that they just can’t sit there chomping on a sandwich when a call is put out for a job. 
“Equally an investigator is always up against the clock, whether to deal with a detainee in custody or preparing a prosecution file. Again this is the legacy of a decade of austerity which has led to such a significant black hole in resources that the 20,000 new officers just won’t fill. We can’t expect officers who are responsible for decisions which affect people’s liberty and even their life to work eight, ten or 12 hours day after day without a break.”