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Lack of time for officers to recover having 'devastating effect' on mental health

Charity says cuts have caused officers to be given little time to recover from trauma.
Published - 04/06/2019 By - Harry Wise

A mental health charity has called for better resources for police to deal with the high levels of PTSD among officers.

Police Care says cutbacks to both police and mental health budgets are having a "devastating effect" on forces.

The charity wants to establish a policing mental health strategy that can end the postcode lottery, as well as a better understanding of trauma exposure to challenge the stigma of mental health injury.

It says officers are not given adequate time to recover from traumatic incidents and have to rely on NHS provision to deal with any mental health problems.

A spokesman told Police Oracle: "The lack of time to recover and process traumatic incidents before being sent back out is having a devastating effect on the psychological harm being suffered daily."

The charity's comments were echoed by mental health charity SANE, which says officers have come under increasing strain. It noted that more officers are taking time off work due to stress and other mental health problems in the last few years.

Though the organisation did not suggest police cuts have affected the mental wellbeing of frontline police officers, it does believe cuts to mental health services have "likely" exacerbated such problems among police officers.

A spokesman said: "The police are often the first to respond to people in a mental health crisis, with cuts to psychiatric services often leaving them to pick up the pieces.

"On the whole, it is often the police who show the most common sense and care for people and their families in distress." 

Last month, a study by Cambridge University found an estimated one in five serving officers are afflicted with PTSD. But around two-thirds who suffer from the disorder are unaware they have the condition. 

Police Care funded the study. In response to its findings, it called for a policing mental health strategy with its chief executive Gill Scott-Moore saying the service is "heavily reliant upon generic NHS provision that isn’t equipped for the specialist treatment needed."

In the most recent edition of the Police Federation Magazine, the federation covered the story of Cleveland PC Mick Johnson.

After facing a knife attack, the officer experienced flashbacks and took time off work. His attacker received a 22-month suspended sentence.

PC Johnson said cuts to frontline staff were to blame for the lack of "proactive policing" and for putting pressure on the police to deal with those who have mental health issues.

He added that when he started his job in 1996, one shift would involve at least 24 officers. Now PC Johnson says the force is "lucky if we can put 10 officers on the streets."

"It’s incredibly frustrating not being able to do the job that I still love," he said. "I joined to help people, catch criminals and prevent crime, but I spend most of my time dealing with concerns for safety, which takes up hours."

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