HAMPSHIRE Police officers could be affected by the long-term mental health impacts of COVID-19, their Federation has warned.
Chair Zoe Wakefield said she hopes the easing of lockdown restrictions over the next few weeks will help officers get back to some sort of normality, although she was warned that demand is starting to rise ‘significantly’.
That demand is only going to go one way, as the night-time economy across the county opens up and football fans flock to pubs and clubs to enjoy watching the delayed Euro 2020 football tournament.
Protests and marches don’t appear to be going away any time soon either.
National Police Wellbeing Service Lead Andy Rhodes said a recent PFEW survey showed that 80% of officers across the country had felt stressed, anxious and had low mood over the past 18 months, a period he hopes officers can now ‘come out of’.
Zoe says that won’t be easy.
She explained: “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.”
Support through new recruits is coming, but that frontline 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.”
With a busy summer ahead, Zoe is urging officers to make the most of the time off they’ve got.
“There’s no leave embargo in place, so hopefully, officers have got some leave booked in,” she said.
“So, if you’re off for a few days or a week, make the most of it and please ensure you get the rest and recuperation you need.”