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More than 160 West Mercia Police officers off with stress

By Lucy Todman | Crime | Published: | Last Updated:

More than 160 police officers serving the West Mercia force area have been signed off work with stress or depression in the last 12 months, new figures reveal today.

In total 162 officers were found to be unfit for work after doctors diagnosed them to be suffering from anxiety, depression, stress and hyper-tension.

Under a Freedom of Information request submitted to West Mercia Police, 21 officers were found to have a psychological disorder, 14 had depression, 23 were suffering from anxiety and four had hyper-tension.

The figures show that a further 76 were suffering from stress and 24 had a stress-related illness.

The Police Federation says stress is one of the biggest challenges facing forces in the UK, with absences putting pressure on officers.

In a report published earlier this year it said 66 per cent of officers in the UK indicated that their workload was too high and that 35 per cent of officers reported being physically attacked at least once a month.

Policing lead for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, Chief Superintendent Kevin Purcell, said: “We take the mental wellbeing of our workforce incredibly seriously and are highly committed to improving the way officers and staff are supported mentally and physically in their jobs.

Challenging

"There is no doubt policing is a challenging profession, with our officers dedicated to protecting other people from harm, and it is essential that we also enable our workforce to safeguard their own wellbeing.

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"We have more work to do, officers attend harrowing incidents, often one after another, they work extremely hard and my focus is on ensuring their well-being is supported and we do all we can to ensure that they feel valued."

He said the force had made strides in putting in procedures to help officers, adding: “We have tried and tested welfare debriefing processes in place to help prevent the impact of traumatic events on our officers and staff and have a dedicated welfare officer team providing independent and confidential support to our workforce.

"We also provide all of our officers and staff with access to an independent and confidential service available to them 24 hours a day to provide immediate support, information and guidance for any concern at work or in their personal life that is causing them some level of worry, anxiety or distress.

“We actively encourage officers and staff to take part in different activities to promote both mental and physical health and also recognise when they, or their colleagues, might need help."

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Force links with charity to tackle stress

West Mercia Police has teamed up with the mental health charity Mind to help its officers with stress.

The force says it is committed to dealing with the issue after it was revealed 162 officers serving the force area have been signed off work in the last 12 months.

Policing lead for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, Chief Superintendent Kevin Purcell, said it was working closely with Mind’s Blue Light Pledge that helps officers.

He said: “We are fully committed to supporting the Mind charity to help positively promote health and wellbeing and signpost the support tools and resources available to all of our staff.”

Faye McGuinness, Blue Light programme manager at Mind, said: “For the last two years, we have been working with emergency services across England to prioritise the mental health of their staff and volunteers.

“We’ve helped thousands of staff and volunteers across emergency services to actively challenge mental health stigma, learn more about mental health and make positive changes in their approach to wellbeing.”

She said a booklet, produced by Mind, is made available to West Mercia officers who think they may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

Russ Yeoman, West Mercia Police Federation chairman, said: "It's clear that these figures show staffing levels in the service are not sufficient for the demands placed on officers.

"Levels have drastically decreased over the last 10 years and it's quite clear that officers are feeling the pressure of it.

"The service is doing everything it can but it is not solving the problem. We need proper funding and proper help for officers doing a difficult and stressful job."

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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