Police officers are getting better at talking about their mental health, but there’s more that can be done to reduce the stigma, the Chairman of the Defence Police Federation has said.
Speaking at the beginning of Stress Awareness Month, Chairman Eamon Keating said: “Policing is an incredibly stressful job, and when you add the fact that over 90% of our members are authorised firearms officers, that brings with it additional stress. And then there’s the current climate we’re in with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think the way in which we as a society are moving towards an open discussion of stress, mental health and how people are feeling, is positive. It’s needed now more than ever, to signpost officers towards organisations and processes that can help them – anything we can do to reduce the stigma around talking about these sorts of issues has got to be a positive step.”
Eamon said that the taboo around admitting you were struggling has reduced over the past few years, but that there was still a “nervousness”, particularly among firearms offices.
He said: “The taboo that used to be around mental health has reduced massively with all the people who have come forward, especially those who are in the limelight. But there is still a nervousness, especially in the firearms environment, where the inability to deal with high stress and carrying a firearm is not necessarily compatible, so it can cause issues for officers’ careers.
“But at the end of the day our health is the most important issue and that includes mental health. The earlier we can engage with people on issues, the quicker we can help them to manage their stress and their environment, the quicker they get back to full health.”
Where an individual needs help or if anyone needs assistance I would strongly suggest they either contact our full time Force Welfare Officer, Claire Batt, who is also our DPF lead on welfare or one of our Area Secretaries within the DPF, who can assist in directing them to the best group to help, whether that is the MoD Employee Assistance Program, the Police Firearms Officers Association or any of the other groups we have to assist with many aspects of life that can cause stress to increase or become difficult to manage.