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Hundreds of police officers off work due to stress and anxiety

By Pete Madeley | Crime | Published:

More than 700 police officers took time off work last year due to stress, anxiety or other psychological disorders, it can be revealed.

West Midlands Police federation chair Sgt Richard Cooke

A Freedom of Information request shows that in 2018 West Midlands Police (WMP) officers missed 43,311 days of work, with 351 officers off with stress and 273 absent due to anxiety.

A total of 87 officers were absent through anxiety and seven officers missed days due to PTSD. In all 735 officers missed time at work due to mental health issues.

The figures represent a rise of 61 officers on 2017 and come despite WMP losing more than 2,000 officers since 2010.

'Chewed up and spat out'

The situation has been branded "alarming" by Police Federation bosses, who today warned that officers were being "chewed up and spat out" due to overwork.

Federation chair Richard Cooke, said: "The force is trying to recognise some of the problems but it is too big of a beast to tame because of how stretched things are.

"It would be hard enough to deal with these mental health issues in times of plenty, but when resources are so limited it becomes impossible."

Sgt Cooke said reduced officer numbers meant that officers who were used to dealing with lower end crime were now having to cope with the trauma of murder scenes.

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And officers were also covering bigger force areas and facing a rising tide of violence, he said. "There is a higher level of risk," he said. "I've spoken to officers who have been assaulted five times over a 12 month period.

"I've dealt with officers in specialist squads who have been chewed up and spat out due to depression and anxiety issues.

"There is huge mental pressure. It takes a toll."

Wellbeing

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A WMP spokesperson said: "Policing takes its toll and we care deeply about our people’s wellbeing. As a bare minimum, all of our officers, staff and volunteers have access 24/7 to trained counsellors via B-Well, our employee assistance programme.

"The service which launched in 2017 allows those at West Midlands Police to self-refer for help, at any time of the day or night, regardless of their issue and, where needed, will give access to one-to-one counselling sessions to help people through difficult times.

"This is in addition to enhanced checks and psychological support for colleagues who have been through work-related trauma such as fatal car crashes, child deaths or those required to look at disturbing images of abuse.

"We also have an extensive occupational health service for those in need. The department provides advice on health, safety and wellbeing, arranging health promotion and supervision.

"They support a culture of physical and psychological health and wellbeing, taking a proactive approach to the provision of services for our entire workforce in a challenging and demanding work environment."

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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