THERE are fears that more police officers will suffer from poor mental health in the coming years due to the long-term effects of the pandemic and the pressures colleagues are under.
That’s the fear of Zoë Wakefield, Hampshire Police Federation Chair, who was speaking after new figures emerged showing 197 police officers were signed off from Hampshire Constabulary due to stress, depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2020/21.
Nearly 8,500 officers were signed off nationally, the survey showed.
Zoë said: “These figures are still far too high and I think it’s just a long-term effect of austerity and all the cuts. Back ten years ago when I was on shift you’d have a team of maybe 11, 12 officers. If in a week you go to 3 or 4 very traumatic jobs, the chances are you’ll only go to one, if any.
“Now the teams are so small that you wouldn’t necessarily go to not just one traumatic job but you might go to more than one. I think that cumulative effect is what’s causing the PTSD and stress. And also it is constant hard work because of the lack of numbers and that’s going to take its toll.
“I think probably this time next year the figures will be even higher because the long-term impact of the pandemic will have taken its toll and will be coming out more in people, whereas I think when you’re in the middle of a crisis you just keep going. It’s only when things stop that the full impact is then known. I don’t think we’ve probably seen the full extent of the impact of Covid yet on police officers.”
Hampshire saw a slight reduction in figures; last year 234 officers were signed off, which Zoë said was down to the amount of work the force had been putting into supporting officers.
The Federation provides counselling services through the force, various police charities and the group insurance scheme. It also offers floatation tank therapy, which can provide respite for those suffering from stress and PTSD, and stays at the force welfare lodge. However, Zoë said officers can only really be helped by sustained investment from the Government which will see the pressure taken off.