Hundreds of Hampshire police officers off sick with mental health problems

Eight out of 10 officers are showing signs of depression or anxiety
Eight out of 10 officers are showing signs of depression or anxiety

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HUNDREDS of police have been off sick with mental health issues while officer numbers have been cut, it can be revealed.

The Police Federation has warned that eight out of 10 officers are displaying signs of depression or anxiety as a result of ‘doing too much’.

Separate figures seen by The News show a steady increase of short-term absences due to psychological or mental health reasons at Hampshire police since 2010.

There are around 1,000 fewer police in the force – with Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter linking this to the problem.

Mr Apter, who represents the rank-and-file, said: ‘The reality is we simply don’t have enough officers to match the demand we have.

‘I’ve been saying for some time that cuts to the policing budgets will have consequences and some of those consequences are that officers are suffering as a result of the pressures being put on them.

‘We have a number of welfare-related programmes within Hampshire Constabulary but as good as they are, they’re still not enough and there needs to be investment in officer and staff welfare above and beyond what is already being done.’

Figures show in 2010/11 there were 147 absences of five days or more relating to mental health, with this increasing to 236 in 2016/17.

Between 2010/11 and August 31, 2017, there were 48 retirements due to mental health problems.

Long-term sickness spiked in 2014/15 with 210 police officers taking 28 days or more off unwell. In 2010/11 there were 76 such absences, rising to 104 in the first four months of 2017/18.

Police Federation chairman Calum McLeod said officers ‘are doing too much, with not enough support, with not enough rest’.

In just one day in October last year, chosen as a snapshot, police in Hampshire were owed, on average, 3.5 rest days.

Gemma Gair, HR Business Partner at Hampshire Constabulary, said: ‘The wellbeing of our officers and staff is incredibly important to us, and we are committed to proactive and reactive strategies to increase good health and wellbeing in our policing teams.

‘As a police force our staff members want to serve the public and support their team. They understand the importance of ensuring they are resilient and, as a force, we work hard to balance the workload.

‘This has been a challenging period, and we are extremely proud and grateful to our officers and staff who deliver despite having to undertake challenging roles, often performed in difficult circumstances, on a daily basis.

‘The force has a well-being strategy in place which will continue to be reviewed and developed based on feedback through internal staff surveys, research, and national initiatives.

‘Examples of the support available are the Mental Health Peer Supporters, for both internal staff and public support, and an established psychological screening programme.

‘In addition, many staff have been accessing the available online support and engaging with the resources and information available on our wellbeing site.

‘This support provided to officers and staff is underpinned by a 24-hour assistance line, Occupational Health clinics and wellbeing workshops.

‘We have policies in place to effectively manage sickness absence and maintain contact with those that are away from the workplace.

‘Earlier this month Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney and Deputy Chief Constable Sara Glen signed the Blue Light Time to Change Pledge, showing our commitment to ending the stigma around mental health.

‘We’ve been signed up to this for a few years but we have signed up again to reinforce our commitment to mental health and highlight our pledge to improve mental health awareness, and to better enable our officers, staff and volunteers to look out for themselves, their teams, and members of the public.

‘A healthy workforce is required for an excellent delivery to our community, and we will continue to work hard to ensure we have a healthy and resilient workforce.’