Members urged not to suffer in silence

Gwent Police Police Federation wellbeing lead Danielle Threader has urged members not to suffer in silence after a survey revealed more than three quarters of frontline officers had experienced mental health and wellbeing difficulties in the last year.

The report from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), which follows a survey of 12,471 rank and file police officers,  highlighted the heavy emotional toll the coronavirus pandemic had taken across the police service.

It found 69 per cent of all respondents linked ‘work-related difficulties’ to their distress and of these respondents, 58 per cent had experienced work-related mental health and wellbeing difficulties and cited heavy workloads as a factor.

Danielle said: “It is important for officers to remember they do not have to go through this alone and that help is always at hand if they need it. The mental health and wellbeing of our members is our Number 1 priority and we have a wide range of support services in place for colleagues to access whenever they need them.

“We all know that policing during the coronavirus pandemic has been incredibly challenging and it has clearly had an impact on the mental health and wellbeing of some of our members.

“There is no longer any stigma attached to reaching out for help and I would urge any colleague who feels they might be struggling a bit to access the services available to them.

“Our message to them is clear: You are not alone.”

The report also highlighted the gap between officers who sought help and those who chose not to, with just one in five respondents saying they asked for help. 

A perceived stigma around declaring mental health or wellbeing issues within policing was also evident, with 41 per cent of those who had received help admitting they didn’t share this information with their line manager, because they didn’t want to be treated differently in the workplace.

More positively, the results showed the police service was playing an increasing role in combating mental health issues and that proactive support services were having a constructive impact.

It found 71 per cent of those who sought help for mental health and wellbeing had disclosed this information to line managers, with 67 per cent claiming they were “adequately” supported by the police service after doing so.

A total of 74 per cent indicated they were aware of force provided support services, such as resilience training, mindfulness workshops, and mental health awareness programmes.

Officers who responded to the survey were asked about their awareness of national support initiatives within policing, with the Blue Light Programme by Mind, Oscar Kilo, and the Federation’s Welfare Support Programme the most recognisable.

National Federation chair John Apter said: “The pandemic has put pressure on policing like never before. But while the negative impact on the mental health of police officers comes as no surprise, it should sound alarm bells.

“Police officers often feel as though their concerns are irrelevant. Policing and Government therefore must do much more to make sure they can more easily access the support they deserve.

“On a positive note, there is more mental health and wellbeing support available than ever before - and it’s clear from the evidence more officers are seeking support.

“But we need to remove the stigma around these issues. We have to ensure every officer knows where they can reach out and get support no matter what time of day or night they need it.

“The Police Covenant, which is currently going through Parliament, is the perfect opportunity to ensure that help and support is provided to officers. That’s why it is essential that what the covenant delivers is both tangible and meaningful.”

Read the full report.