Hampshire police officers face a long battle to beat mental health as demand soars, federation warns
POLICE across Hampshire could be left battling long-term mental health issues due to the coronavirus pandemic, the head of a policing federation has warned.
Zoe Wakefield, chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation, which represents the rank and file, said officers were already fatigued and stressed following more than a year of lockdown.
And the police chief warned there would be little respite for staff, as demand for police was already starting to rise ‘significantly’, with pressure expected to intensify as lockdown eases and the pubs and clubs become more busy.
The concern comes following a survey which showed 80 per cent police officers nationwide had felt stressed and anxious during the past 18 months, dealing with the ever changing laws around the pandemic.
Sgt Wakefield said: ‘I hope once we get out of the lockdown restrictions, fatigue and mental health impact on officers will ease a little, but we are seeing a real significant increase in demand.
‘It’s going to continue to be really challenging, and we’re going to be very busy. Hopefully, come September, we’ll be able to look back on it all and review.
‘It’s important to remember too that despite the extra recruitment, we’re still really short-staffed, so it’s hard to see the impact on officers’ fatigue and mental health changing soon.
‘We don’t know what the long-term effects of Covid-19 will have on police officers, their families and society as a whole; we’re going to see it for some time.’
It comes after Hampshire Police Federation said its members had to battle to learn ever-changing Covid-19 legislation.
The research found they felt to be in a ‘no win’ situation - and social media along with mainstream media ‘distorted the reality of policing lockdowns’ leaving police demoralised.
The wellbeing study found 47 per cent of officers had increased anxiety, with a quarter saying the pandemic had a negative health impact.
They were worried about infecting family members with the virus.
Dr Sarah Charman, from the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, said: ‘Perhaps more than any other profession, the police have had to contend with an unenviable list of thorny Covid-19 related issues.
‘The pandemic has changed both what the police do and how they do it, with potential long-lasting consequences for not only the relationship between the public and the police, but for police officers themselves.’
Support through new recruits is coming, but that front-line experience is not something that can be picked up overnight, Zoe said, especially when it comes to policing the night-time economy.
She added: ‘It’s something we’ve raised with the senior team on the force.
‘We need to put some extra plans in place; it’s not just the experience of dealing with violence, it’s the drunk, happy people – how you react when someone takes your hat off you or puts their arms around you, it’s that sort of experience officers need.’
Last year saw 445 more officers recruited into Hampshire police.