12 November 2019
Police officers will continue to be exposed to horrific situations that could have an impact on their mental wellbeing but they need to look out for each other and not be afraid to speak up if they are struggling, says the national chair of the Police Federation.
John Apter wrote a blog to mark National Stress Awareness Week, which ran from 4 to 8 November, and vowed to fight to ensure officers have the support they need to help keep themselves well.
“Experts say some stress in your life can be a good thing, but we have to be aware when stress spirals and tips into being something more serious and more difficult to control,” said John.
“Policing is a challenging job which certainly can be stressful at times. Officers can be exposed to many horrific situations which nobody should be. And it is well documented that repeated exposure to traumatic events has a detrimental effect on a person’s mental health.
“This, combined with the increasing demand created by years of cuts and increasing crime rates, mean more and more officers are feeling pressure like never before.”
But he welcomed the fact that more officers are willing to open up about how they are feeling and admit they are having difficulty coping.
However, he also pointed out that with many officers working in isolation, it can be hard to find someone to talk things through with at the end of a shift.
“We have to change that,” said John.
The national chair acknowledged that forces have employee support programmes and that TRiM practitioners can help along with elements of the group insurance scheme packages. He also explained the Welfare Support Programme, supported by the Federation and the Police Firearms Officers’ Association, may be expanded.
But he concluded: “We don’t want things to get so bad individuals feel they have nowhere to turn and stress morphs into depression or PTSD and officers feel they are trapped in a really dark place. We want to help before they get to that point and part of this is encouraging officers not to be afraid or worried about admitting they are struggling.
“At the end of the day, we can never remove all the stress from policing – and yes a bit of stress can be a good thing – but it’s about finding the right balance and looking out for each other to ensure we all stay safe.”