10 May 2021
Today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week - the second since the pandemic struck. After more than a year we are slowly beginning to recover - but the impact on the mental health of our members is evident.
PFEW Wellbeing Chair Hayley Aley sat down with former Chief Constable Andy Rhodes - who leads Oscar Kilo (otherwise known as the National Police Wellbeing Service) - to find out what is being done to support colleagues. Neither shied away from discussing what needs to improve.
In our day one video, they focussed on the impact of Covid, fatigue and the importance of recovery.
Andy said it was ‘worrying’ that almost 80 per cent of officers (77 per cent) acknowledged in our Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey they have experienced feelings of stress, low mood, anxiety, or other difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing over the previous 12 months.
“If you look broadly across the whole of society, you will see the pandemic is having a massive impact on everybody’s mental health,” he explained. “But police officers are working one of the most stressful jobs that is out there, and on top of that there are all the other things the pandemic has brought - particularly into our personal lives.”
With officers stepping up not only to police new regulations, but also playing a significant part in helping NHS staff in hospitals while handling high-profile public disorder events, it’s been a really challenging year.
It is vital that forces now look at fatigue and recovery, said Andy. He added: “We’ve already got evidence this is a job that takes it out of you. With Covid there’s been no respite and we need to come out of that. We’re using that knowledge to influence the recovery programme.
“After 12 months of working in such a complex environment we need to really focus even more than we have been doing on recovery and fatigue. We need to start to reduce the stigma around this, as it’s something that’s just accepted; that everyone in policing is knackered all the time. It doesn’t have to be so.”
Our Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey showed over half of officers found it difficult to carry out certain duties and tasks at work because they were too fatigued (53 per cent) – the majority admitted this had interfered with their family life or social life over the last year (64 per cent).
Hayley commented: “The Federation has been constantly raising issues around fatigue for a number of years. The pandemic has almost culminated in bringing everything together to say; if we don’t look at fatigue now, what will it look like when we start to recover from the pandemic?”
If you want to talk to someone right away about your mental health, here is a list of organisations you can call for immediate help.
Our Welfare Support Programme is also here to assist you and provides independent and confidential support to members with access to fully trained and accredited professionals.