26 July 2021
Policing during the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the mental health and wellbeing of frontline officers with more than three quarters admitting to experiencing difficulties in the last year.
A report from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), which follows a survey of 12,471 rank and file police officers, has revealed the scale of the emotional toll the challenges of the pandemic has taken on members.
The report found 69 per cent of all respondents linked “work-related difficulties” to their distress. Of these respondents, 58 per cent experienced work-related mental health and wellbeing difficulties and cited heavy workloads as a factor.
It also highlighted a gap between officers who sought help and those who chose not to, with just one in five respondents saying they asked for help.
A perceived stigma around declaring mental health or wellbeing issues within policing was also evident, with 41 per cent of those who had received help admitting they didn’t share this information with their line manager, because they didn’t want to be treated differently in the workplace.
More positively, the results showed the police service was playing an increasing role in combating mental health issues and that proactive support services were having a constructive impact.
It found 71 per cent of those who sought help for mental health and wellbeing had disclosed this information to line managers, with 67 per cent claiming they were “adequately” supported by the police service after doing so.
A total of 74 per cent indicated they were aware of force provided support services, such as resilience training, mindfulness workshops, and mental health awareness programmes.
Officers who responded to the survey were asked about their awareness of national support initiatives within policing, with the Blue Light Programme by Mind, Oscar Kilo, and the Federation’s Welfare Support Programme the most recognisable.
Derbyshire Police Federation chair Tony Wetton said: “The results of this survey are really not at all surprising considering the extra pressures our members have found themselves under during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Police officers have been working in extremely challenging circumstances since the pandemic was declared in March last year and have been putting themselves and their families at risk every day.
“This has clearly taken its toll on many of our members. These worrying results bring into focus the anger and sense of betrayal felt by police officers at the Government refusing to allow the supposedly independent body that reviews their pay to even consider a modest pay rise this year. Instead they will be faced with yet another real terms cut in their pay. They have worked tirelessly on the frontline throughout the pandemic, keeping the public safe and protecting the NHS and in many cases making themselves ill in the process, for no more than empty platitudes from Government.
“But officers must remember they are not alone and always have our full support. There are a number of services open to them and they should feel no shame if they need to ask for help and support.
John Apter, national Federation chair, said: “The pandemic has put pressure on policing like never before. But while the negative impact on the mental health of police officers comes as no surprise, it should sound alarm bells.
“Police officers often feel as though their concerns are irrelevant. Policing and Government therefore must do much more to make sure they can more easily access the support they deserve.
“On a positive note, there is more mental health and wellbeing support available than ever before - and it’s clear from the evidence more officers are seeking support.
“But we need to remove the stigma around these issues. We have to ensure every officer knows where they can reach out and get support no matter what time of day or night they need it.
“The Police Covenant, which is currently going through Parliament, is the perfect opportunity to ensure that help and support is provided to officers. That’s why it is essential that what the covenant delivers is both tangible and meaningful.”