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West Midlands Police Federation

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New survey reveals one in five officers has PTSD

9 May 2019

One in five police officers is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to the results of a new survey published today (9 May).

And Rich Cooke, chair of West Midlands Police Federation, believes the Home Office and police leaders, now need to act on the findings before more officers start to suffer.

“Police officers join the Force to serve and protect their communities,” says Rich, “But, in return, they should be protected and supported themselves. All too often, police officers are succumbing to the pressures of the job and the traumatic incidents they deal with.

“I believe their mental health and wellbeing has increasingly suffered since the cuts to policing. With fewer officers to meet the demand, they are being run ragged, trying to maintain an effective policing service for their communities but barely having time to process their thoughts, let alone come to terms with some of the horrendous things they have seen.

“The Government needs to take notice of these findings and act by re-investing in policing and in police officers.”

Policing: The Job and The Life is a survey of 17,000 police officers from 47 forces in the United Kingdom, carried out by Cambridge University from October to December last year with funding from Police Care UK. The results show:

  • 21 per cent of police officers who responded reported symptoms consistent with PTSD or the more severe Complex PTSD (CPTSD)
  • 73 per cent of those with PTSD or CPTSD will be unaware that they have it
  • 66 per cent of those reported a psychological or mental health issue which they felt was a direct result of police work
  • 69 per cent of officers feel that trauma is not well managed in their force
  • 93 still go to work even when suffering from a work-related psychological issue

The survey’s findings echo the Police Federation’s latest Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey which also found evidence of widespread, repeated exposure to trauma within the police workforce. Two thirds of Federation members across England and Wales have experienced at least one traumatic incident in the previous year, and a similar number have been physically attacked on duty in the previous 12 months. 

Police officer numbers have been cut by 22,000 nationally since 2010, increasing the stress and pressure on those who remain. Unsurprisingly, 43.9 per cent of officers view their job as very or extremely stressful.

National Federation vice-chair Ché Donald said: “We have said it repeatedly and now respected academics are saying it – police officers are at breaking point and something must be done right now. If officers are breaking, then how can we expect them to adequately serve and protect the public? We need significant, centrally-funded investment and we need it now. These figures must serve as a wake-up call to the Government to act before it is too late. The Government is letting down its servants of the crown.”

The Cambridge University survey found that police officers and staff score significantly lower on World Health Organisation (WHO) wellbeing indices than other sectors. The average sickness absence is 20 days over a year, with ‘health problems caused or made worse by work’ cited as most frequent reason for calling in sick.