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Support available for stressed officers

Police officers from across the country are having their mental health monitored as the stresses of the job push more to consider suicide - according to the national Federation.

Due to the high stress officers experience a number of 'vulnerable and at risk' officers have been identified by the Welfare Support Programme, which was set up by the Police Firearms Officers' Association and the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW).

Currently, out of 230 people registered on the scheme, a staggering 148 are being carefully monitored for their own health and wellbeing.

"Obviously these are the most serious cases, but we are seeing a definite increase in the number of police officers suffering from severe mental health issues. There are now more than 230 people on our programme, from a starting point of just two last summer. Each month we are seeing an increase in calls and referrals and there now 32 forces with officers registered plus the Ministry of Defence Police," said Che Donald, PFEW's mental health lead.

"The scheme is literally a lifeline for those who are down, feeling isolated and considered at risk, having been through a traumatic episode or some other reason. We have been involved with officers who have gone missing and were considered high suicide risks. In other cases, we have been able to step in when there was no force welfare support or the NHS was unable to help."

The statistics were released after mental health charity Mind revealed that an online poll of emergency service personnel showed there was a high incidence of suicidal thoughts among 'Blue Light' staff and volunteers in England and Wales.

Tiff Lynch, chairman of Leicestershire Police Federation, said: "With officer numbers decreasing and the cuts programme yet no decline in demand, the pressures and stresses placed on our police officers is unprecedented. Their work is highly stressful, fast-paced and they are often exposed to horrific situations which take their toll.

"It really is worrying to hear that the number of officers suffering from mental health illnesses is on the rise, however, it is no surprise."

The Mind survey also revealed that:

  • Five per cent of the staff and volunteers from police, fire, ambulance and search and rescue services polled had made an actual attempt to take their own lives
  • 41 per cent had been prescribed medication
  • More than 92 per cent suffered from stress, low mood and mental health at some point
  • And this made nearly two thirds of them think about leaving their jobs.

Faye McGuinness, Blue Light programme manager at Mind, which supports emergency service workers, said: "It's shocking that our Blue Light workers are experiencing such high levels of mental health problems, low mood and stress, with one in four thinking about leaving the emergency services, and even contemplating suicide, as a result.

"The challenging nature of the job - with its unique pressures - can put staff and volunteers at greater risk of developing a mental health problem. That's why it's so important support is made available - to ensure dedicated workers are at their best and ready to carry out these incredibly difficult and life-saving roles we often take for granted."

If you feel you need support, please contact the Federation office or your workplace representatives.