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Norfolk Police Federation

#MentalHealth: "Presenteeism is alive and kicking in the police service"

6 October 2022

13,263 police officers in the UK took time off due to stress, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in the past year.

In Norfolk 143 police officers took time off for mental ill health in the past year.

Andy Symonds, Chair of Norfolk Police Federation, reacts to the figures.

Andy said: “My first reaction is that these figures do not truly reflect the true scale of the issue of mental ill health within the police service. I know many police officers that are suffering but currently feel that they would be letting their team down to report sick. So presenteeism is alive and kicking in the police service.

“Officers are committed people who want to do their best even when they are ill. We need to continue to invest in officers’ wellbeing before they break rather than invest in the services available when they seek help because by then we’ve lost the key time to intervene early to get them well again.

“When I see all new student officers’ I make sure that I spare some time to signpost them to self help and other mental health services both the Federation have in the form of our Welfare Support Programme and our reps who are trained in menta health first aid.

“We recruit people into the organisation train them in the law, process, how to arrest and how to defend themselves but we’re simply not good enough in training and preparing them for the types of trauma they will see and have to deal with on an almost daily basis.

“So it’s not only the obvious trauma like attending fatal road collisions but the slow creep of dealing with all types of stresses, anxieties, pressures and traumatic incidents day after day, week after week and shift after shift. We need to get better at identifying those colleagues that are struggling to cope.

“Investment in officers being trained in recognising the symptoms, behaviours in their colleagues. Therefore investment both in terms of financial but also a force wide commitment to make the support available consistently to those officers that need it.

“So we need to concentrate our efforts into the preventative measures we can take to stop this issue getting bigger. If we don’t, ultimately it will mean we will have more officers off sick suffering with their mental health who are not able to serve their communities.”