Defence Police Federation on mental health: Let’s look after ourselves and each other

Defence Police Federation members are being urged to come forward and use the mental health resources that are available to them to combat the stresses of the job and ‘everyday life’.

Stress-related sick day figures first revealed last year were published by a national newspaper over the weekend after it made a freedom of information request.

The figures show 20,000 stress-related sick days have been taken by MOD officers over the past three years.

Breaking down the figures reveals that a total of 5,340 stress-related sick days were taken in 2016, rising to 6,080 in 2017 and increasing further to 7,268 in 2018.

Over 2,200 stress-related sick days were taken between January to April 2019.

Defence Police Federation Chairman Eamon Keating said there are a multitude of factors affecting members’ mental health.

“There is no one single issue behind mental health, no one factor that if you resolve you’ll solve the problem,” he said.

“Much of it is driven by modern life. MOD police officers work in a high-stress environment carrying firearms and a heavy amount of responsibility. It has an impact on some officers’ ability to cope.”

It’s vital officers come forward and use the full suite of resources available to them and to think about their mental health. This week is also Mental Health Awareness Week (18th-24th May), Eamon said.

“Historically policing was an environment when you didn’t come forward and ask for help, but people are more comfortable in identifying problems now. The stigma is falling away.

“It’s a possibility, especially as a firearms officer, that you won’t be able to do your job for a period of time if you’re in a difficult place, but we can help you come out the other side and we do.”

Counselling, coaching and physical rehabilitation have proven to have been beneficial to officers, Eamon added.

“As a Federation, we recognise being a MOD police officer is a stressful job, and we’ve put several resources in place through the Federation, the Police Firearms Officers Association and the MoD to help give officers the help and assistance they need, whether that’s counselling or coaching or physical rehabilitation – mental health can be driven by so many factors,” he said.

“Take up is excellent, and we’re very confident that officers who need assistance are getting the help they need.

“We’ve done a lot of work through our welfare lead, Claire Batt, alongside the Police Firearms Officers Association and have 100 Mental Health First Aiders to help officers, supervisors and line managers.”

Looking after themselves and seeing the symptoms in others is critical for officers.

“The impact of stress-related sickness in these cases are thankfully short term mostly and manageable – everything we do is designed to enable officers to recognise they have an issue which they may need help with and to give them that help professionally and competently to assist them in getting back to work and making them well,” Eamon said.

“That’s the critical element; getting people well for themselves and their family – it’s a good job, a difficult job but at the end of the day it is a job, officers’ health comes first.

“So, let’s look after ourselves, and each other come forward and ask for help; so far, we’ve been able to help everyone who needs it.”

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