Police forces must address the mental health fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic and provide much-needed support, according to the Federation’s wellbeing chair Hayley Ayley.
The last year has been particularly challenging with frontline officers stepping up to police Covid regulations as well as playing a major role in helping NHS staff in hospitals while handling high-profile public disorder events.
And the latest Demand, Capacity and Welfare survey carried out by the Federation found almost 80 per cent of officers had experienced feelings of stress, low mood, anxiety, or other difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing over the previous 12 months.
The survey showed more than half of officers found it difficult to carry out certain duties and tasks at work because of fatigue with 64 per cent admitting this had interfered with their family life or social life.
Hayley said: “As police officers we deal with trauma, danger and grief day in, day out. We see the very worst of humanity – but are expected to leave it behind at the end of a shift, then return to ‘normal’ life.
“It’s important for officers to feel comfortable about speaking out about the difficulties they are facing with mental health and wellbeing.
“There is still a stigma attached to mental illness in policing – but we must change this. Nobody should feel like they have to hide away when there’s an issue, or bottle things up until they are broken.”
Former Lancashire Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, who leads Oscar Kilo, the national police wellbeing service, said: “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.”