9 May 2019
A new survey revealing one in five police officers has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) should serve as a wake-up call for the Home Office and police leaders, according to Derbyshire Police Federation secretary Kirsty Bunn.
Kirsty was commenting after today’s publication of Policing: The Job and The Life, a survey of 17,000 police officers from 47 forces in the United Kingdom, carried out by Cambridge University from October to December last year with funding from Police Care UK. The results show:
“The Federation has been raising concerns about officers mental health for some time now. The Government’s cuts to policing funding have led to a significant drop in officer numbers at a time when demand has soared. Officers are under pressure as they seek to maintain a quality service for the communities they serve. Day in, day out they are helping people in traumatic incidents, running towards danger as others are running away,” says Kirsty.
“But, despite their unique role in society, police officers are human too and dealing with these situations, particularly when they are already under pressure, can take its toll. This survey shows how officers’ mental health is being affected and should make the Government realise that it needs to invest in policing and police officers.”
The survey’s findings echo the Police Federation’s latest Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey which also found evidence of widespread, repeated exposure to trauma within the police workforce. Two thirds of Federation members across England and Wales have experienced at least one traumatic incident in the previous year, and a similar number have been physically attacked on duty in the previous 12 months.
Police officer numbers have been cut by 22,000 nationally since 2010, increasing the stress and pressure on those who remain. Unsurprisingly, 43.9 per cent of officers view their job as very or extremely stressful.
The Federation’s national vice-chair, Ché Donald, said: “We have said it repeatedly and now respected academics are saying it – police officers are at breaking point and something must be done right now. If officers are breaking, then how can we expect them to adequately serve and protect the public? We need significant, centrally-funded investment and we need it now. These figures must serve as a wake-up call to the Government to act before it is too late. The Government is letting down its servants of the crown.”
The Cambridge University survey found that police officers and staff score significantly lower on World Health Organisation (WHO) wellbeing indices than other sectors. The average sickness absence is 20 days over a year, with ‘health problems caused or made worse by work’ cited as most frequent reason for calling in sick.