Police Federation

Mental Health Awareness Week: Getting the basics right

Anxiety in the police service is high but we can intervene before we break our officers. National Board member and Wellbeing Lead Sue Honeywill talks about the importance of preventative support for police officers.

20 May 2023


Much has been written about the pressures police officers face daily. In our latest Pay and Morale Survey almost half (42 per cent) said they viewed their job as very or extremely stressful. Of those who said they had experienced stress, low mood, and anxiety the vast majority stated this had been made worse by work.

Every time I speak to my colleagues, they tell me they feel stressed, overworked and often undervalued. Morale also remains an issue, and I know the horrendous high-profile cases bringing British policing into disrepute, has exacerbated that.

But despite the struggles, officers remain dedicated and focused to do the best job they can, and there is a real drive to deliver the highest standards of services to the public.

There is no question policing is a difficult job. Officers are faced with dealing with traumatic incidents on a regular basis, demand is increasing and assaults on officers remain high.

Although we have seen an uplift in officer numbers, staffing levels remain a challenge, with high absence rates for many reasons, including poor mental health, and officers exiting the force.

The situation leaves our officers going from one incident to another, often without having time to de-brief and recharge. Meal breaks are considered a luxury as opposed to the norm, and since the closure of many canteens, there are limited opportunities for officers to decompress, rest and recuperate.

Working excessive hours, our officers are left exhausted on their rest days, when they are not cancelled, and anxious about their workload - which remains ever increasing. We are also still receiving information that officers are struggling to get their annual leave.

Fatigue and anxiety could easily slip over into depression and PTSD, and although there has been a fantastic investment in wellbeing by forces and the College of Policing recently, it is unlikely we’ll see a tangible difference in the wellbeing of our officers until fundamental working conditions are improved.

Preventative measures to support our officers proactively are equally as important, instead of waiting around for them to seek out help. For example, trauma check lists should be introduced which monitor how many traumatic incidents an officer attends and whether they have received the right level of support and de-briefs.

On a more positive note, the care and support I see colleagues give one another on the frontline is exceptional, and the stigma surrounding mental health is crumbling away, whereby opening up about our struggles is starting to be viewed as a strength as opposed to a weakness.

Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues twice if they are ok. A second ‘how are you?’ can make all the difference if they say they are fine the first time. No officer should suffer in silence, and there are services available to offer help such as Oscar Kilo and our Welfare Support Programme.

It remains a priority for PFEW to work with forces to continue to take a preventative approach to wellbeing, to protect the wellbeing of our police officers and promote good mental health to address stress, anxiety, and low mood within the service.

Often it is hard to keep pace with the changes in policing and this in itself can cause anxiety - so, we must ensure we get the basics rights.

We use cookies on this website, you can read about them here To use the website as intended please... ACCEPT COOKIES