Police Federation

We can’t remove stress in policing, but we can talk about it more

7 November 2019

National Chair John Apter

National Chair John Apter

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.

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. 

Whilst this goes on, I know my colleagues like to keep their heads down and just get on the job they set out to do. 

But it is vital they remember small things can make a big difference – the simple act of opening up and talking to somebody – anybody – about what they are going through should never be underestimated. It may sound twee but it really is good to talk – more than that – it is important to talk.

The Federation has been very alive to the increasing stress officers are under, and I will continue to fight to ensure they have the right support they need to help keep themselves well.

And I am reassured that things are changing. Policing, which was once seen as a “macho type” environment, has come a long way.

Increasingly officers are willing to talk – especially the guys – which has been a real issue in the past.

More and more of my colleagues are comfortable saying: “I am stressed at the moment and I am struggling to cope.” And that’s incredibly important.

But before things snowball, officers need to feel able to open up by having informal chats when they start to feel under pressure - be it with colleagues or with supervisors.

We are a policing family, and nobody should suffer alone.

When you look at policing, many officers work in isolation – they are self-briefing, self-parading and out on patrol on their own.

They may finish a shift having dealt with a traumatic event and have nobody to chat it through with - we have got to change that.

Forces do have employee support programmes, TRIM practitioners and officers can access the group insurance schemes and counselling services if and when they are struggling.

Please remember - there is always somebody to speak to.

We are also looking into expanding our Welfare Support Programme which without doubt has saved lives.

But 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.

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