Number of police officers taking sick days for poor mental health doubles in six years

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The number of police officers taking sick leave because of mental health problems has nearly doubled in just six years.

The London’s Met saw a drastic 72 per cent hike in the number of sick days taken because of psychological health, despite the force counting 1,275 fewer officers than six years ago.

Figures acquired under a Freedom of Information Act by 5 News showed the difference in the number of sick days taken by police across England and Wales between 2010-11 and 2016-17.

Overall, days off because of poor mental health rose by 98 per cent.

Forces had many different classification categories for sickness classed as “psychological”, including stress, depression, anxiety, psychological disorder, family bereavement, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, post-natal depression and trauma.

The figures also showed that the total number of police officers has dropped by 10 per cent since 2010-11.

Retired detective constable Alan Phillips, 50, left Essex Police last year after 30 years of service after a diagnosis of depression.

He told 5 News: “When I did disclose that I was unwell, I had some dreadful experiences. On one occasion, I was told, ‘when you’re feeling down, just think of your daughters’. My colleagues were brilliant, the force was not. 

“If there’s less of us and we’ve got more work, we’re going to struggle and the stress is getting higher and higher.”

In London, 48,248 sick days were taken by officers for psychological reasons in 2010/11. This number increased to 83,439 days in 2016/17. The number of officers in that time decreased by 1,275.

A Home Office spokesman said they were giving a £7.5 million funding boost for a project to help police officers’ welfare.

He said: “We recognise that the uniquely challenging work of police officers can, in some cases, impact on their personal wellbeing and mental health.

“We welcome the work led by forces, and supported by the College of Policing, in promoting officer wellbeing and it is for police chiefs to ensure help is in place for officers that need it.

“We are awarding £7.5million to pilot and, if successful, fund a dedicated National Police Welfare Service, which will enhance the mental health advice and welfare support already delivered at force level.”

On Thursday, the Home Office will publish Workforce Data for the 43 territorial forces in England and Wales and the British Transport Police. 

Almost three-quarters of police forces covering England and Wales provided information under the FoI request.

Steve White, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “These figures are eye-opening but not surprising. Increased pressures, reduced officer numbers and tightening budgets create a perfect climate for poor welfare and low morale.”

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