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Conference 2016 | "Forces have a duty to fix officers when they are broken by the job."


Police officers experience twice as much workplace stress as those in other professions, the Police Federation Annual conference has heard.

Up to 38 per cent of officers said they found their job "very or extremely stressful" compared with just 16 per cent of the rest of the adult population, according to Prof Jonathan Houdmont, assistant professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Nottingham.

More than 17,000 police officers from across the country responded to the university's survey of mental health this year.

It found that 66 per cent of officers had a workload that was "too high or much too high" and 78 per cent of officers felt there were not enough officers in their team to do a proper job.

Prof Houdmont said: "Policing is stressful. The data clearly shows that the rate of stress in policing is considerably higher than that found in the general adult population. The mental wellbeing of police officers is considerably poorer too.

"A large proportion of officers have sought help for mental health and wellbeing problems. There are mixed perceptions of support provided by forces for wellbeing issues. There is considerable scope to improve support provided."

The key issues were that interviewed officers were fearful of disclosing they were having mental health worries due to the stigma involved, a lack of workplace support, and concerns about work exposing them to further traumatic situations which would trigger future episodes of stress.

62 per cent of officers said they never or rarely felt optimistic and 60 per cent never or rarely felt relaxed.

Of those who had been off work sick in the previous 12 months, more than a quarter (29 per cent) said one or more days of that had been due to stress, depression or anxiety.

And 65 per cent said they still went to work even though they felt they shouldn't have because of the state of their mental wellbeing.

Meanwhile, a third of line managers in the service are suffering from undiagnosed depression, Stephen Bevan, head of HR research development at Institute of Employment Studies told the conference.

He added: "Mental health support must be seen as an investment, rather than a cost. The build up of stress is too often ignored or dismissed.

"West Midlands Police is appointing new head of wellbeing which is to be welcomed. [The communications company] BT invest a lot in training managers and have seen 30 per cent reduction in workplace absence because of stress."

Che Donald, PFEW lead on officer welfare and mental health, added: "Forces have a duty to fix officers when they are broken by the job."

 

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