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Hertfordshire Police Federation

Survey reveals impact of pandemic on officers’ mental health

27 July 2021

A new survey has revealed that more than three quarters of frontline police officers admitted experiencing mental health and wellbeing difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic.

A report from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), which follows the survey of 12,471 rank and file police officers,  highlighted the heavy emotional toll the pandemic had taken across the police service.

It found 69 per cent of all respondents linked “work-related difficulties” to their distress and of these respondents, 58 per cent had experienced work-related mental health and wellbeing difficulties and cited heavy workloads as a factor.

Hertfordshire Police Federation chair Geoff Bardell said: “The results of this survey will come as no surprise to anyone involved in frontline policing during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our members have been asked to work under extremely challenging circumstances, there has been an extraordinary rise in assaults against police officers and they often found themselves bearing the brunt of public anger and frustration for simply trying to do their jobs.

“The important thing now is for any officer who is struggling under these additional pressures to access the help and support that is available to them.

“They should know there is no shame in reaching out to the services that have been created specifically to protect their mental health and wellbeing and that as a Police Federation we are there to support them.”

The report also highlighted the 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.

National Federation chair John Apter 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.”

Read the full report.


September 2022