Pandemic hits officers’ mental health and wellbeing

Dyfed Powys Police Federation wellbeing lead Dai Gaskins has reassured members they are not alone after a survey revealed more than three quarters of frontline officers admitted experiencing mental health and wellbeing difficulties in the last year.

A 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 of the pandemic on the police service.

The survey 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.

Dai said: “The mental health and wellbeing of our members is something we take extremely seriously and we are sorry, but not surprised, to see how the challenges of policing during the coronavirus pandemic have impacted upon our members.

“The pressures on police officers have intensified throughout the health crisis and our members have been working under the most extraordinary circumstances.

“But they should know they are not alone - we are here to offer whatever help and support they need, whenever they need it - and no one should feel any shame in accessing any of the services available to them.

“We have all had to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances since the pandemic began and in some cases the extra challenges, perhaps compounded by general concerns about their own health and their families, have proved too much.”

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 PFEW’s Welfare Support Programme the most recognisable.

National Federation chair John Apter explained: “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 survey report.