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Mental health survey reveals poor wellbeing support in police force

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Charity currently developing mental health support for emergency services workers.

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A survey by mental health charity Mind has revealed workplace wellbeing support is worse in police forces and other public sector work places than in the private sector. 

The charity surveyed over 12,000 employees across the public and private sectors and found a higher prevalence of mental health problems in the public sector, as well as a lack of support available when people do speak up.

Mind’s survey found that public sector workers, including police officers, were over a third more likely to say their mental health was poor than their peers in the private sector and far more likely to say they have felt anxious at work in the last month.

The charity is calling on the next government to make mental health in the workplace a key priority. 

Mind was awarded LIBOR funding to develop and deliver a major programme of mental health support for emergency services staff and volunteers from police, fire, ambulance and search and rescue services across England from April 2015. Additional funding has meant services can now be rolled out across Wales. A number of organisations have signed the Blue Light pledge to develop action plans to support their staff and volunteers.

Mind’s General Election 2017 manifesto Making it Happen sets out six key priorities for the next government, to help ensure people with mental health problems can access the services and support they need to live full independent lives. 

Police Oracle's BluePrint campaign calls on the government to meet its obligation of protecting our officers both in the job and when they have been forced out of the service because of physical injuries or mental trauma.

In March we revealed 60 per cent of police officers believe their workload is too high.

The statistic was revealed in a survey which illustrates how officers face an increase in demand which is affecting the quality of their work. Eighty per cent of respondents acknowledged experiencing feelings of stress, low mood, anxiety, or other mental health and wellbeing difficulties.

At the Police Federation's conference last month, the staff association outlined further aspects of its Protect the Protectors initiative with Vice Chairman Calum Macleod stating the campaign "shows the human cost to policing".

He said: "We all have family, feelings and frailty and we are all breakable. Yet every day, police officers put themselves in harm’s way.”

Also at the conference former North Yorkshire Police sergeant Ed Simpson, who has medically retired from the force on mental health grounds,insisted more attention should be paid to the number of officers and ex-officers who suffer. 

Mr Simpson said there was an imbalance between what chiefs say and the reality of mental health issues in the force. He also claimed officer suicide numbers would receive greater attention if they were deaths in the line of duty.

.In April we called for a review of sentences for those convicted of assaulting an officer.

An anecdote of a chief constable telling officers at a shift briefing he "did not want to hear" about mental health also raised eyebrows during the conference.

NPCC head Sara Thornton said she was "surprised and disappointed" by the news while Matthew Scott, Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent, insisted this type of matter was an area in which PCCs could be of use. 

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Mental health is one of the biggest domestic issues facing the next government. More people than ever are speaking out about mental health and demanding change. As a nation our expectations for better mental health for all are higher than ever and the next government must rise to this challenge. 

“A vital part of changing the lives of people with mental health problems is to tackle the culture of fear and silence in the workplace that stops people opening up about what they are experiencing. This data shows that the public sector in particular is making progress here. But it’s also vital that when people do speak out they get the right help and support at the right time. It’s clear there is still a long way to go in both the public and private sector to address the gap between people asking for support and actually getting what they need.

“By promoting wellbeing for all staff, tackling the causes of work-related mental health problems and supporting staff who are experiencing mental health problems, organisations can help keep people at work and create mentally healthy workplaces where people are supported to perform at their best.

“The current government funded Mind to put in place support for emergency services staff, through our Blue Light programme, but it is clear that workplace wellbeing needs to be a priority throughout the public sector. We must see the next government commit to making change, as government and also as an employer themselves.” 

Via its BluePrint campaign, Police Oracle accuses the government of failing to meet its obligation of protecting our officers both in the job and, particularly, when they have been forced out of the service because of physical injuries or mental trauma.

We call on the Government to acknowledge and protect our unique service, the best in the world as stated by politicians themselves, by introducing a Police Covenant.

After the General Election Police Oracle will provide further details highlighting how police officers can get involved. 

For more on our campaign click here: BluePrint

View on Police Oracle

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