Politics

Police Scotland officers and staff missed 165,000 work days due to mental health

POLICE officers and staff have missed more than 165,000 days of work due to mental illness, according to new figures.

Data obtained through a freedom of information request shows that a growing number of Police Scotland officers and employees have had to take time off due to ‘psychological disorder’s in the last two and a half years.

This includes staff or officers who are off with alcohol problems, anxiety, bereavement reaction, bipolar, debility, dementia, depression, insomnia, other psychological disorders, post-natal depression, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia and stress, according to Police Scotland

Between April 2019 and March 2020, officers across Scotland stayed off work for a total of 43, 413 days, while the following year they missed 44,312 days all as a result of mental health difficulties.

Working days lost due to the same problems also increased for Police Scotland staff, with 20,384 days missed in 2019/20, rising to 23,925 in 2020/21.

Between April 1 and September 30 this year, police officers missed 22,163 days due to psychological disorders and staff missed 12,373 days for the same reason.

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The Scottish Liberal Democrats, who obtained the data, and the Scottish Conservatives have both called for the Scottish Government to do more to protect the mental health of police officers.

Scottish LibDem justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “These figures show the brutal toll that mental ill health is taking on the national force. The mental health of officers and staff can no longer be sidelined.

“Police officers are often the ones to assist us in our moments of greatest need, yet the Scottish Government has failed to provide officers and staff with the support they need to manage their own mental health.”

A further freedom of information request by the Scottish Conservatives shows 68 officers retired early due to mental ill health Since April 2019.

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden said: “It’s deeply concerning, but not entirely surprising, that such a high proportion of police officers are suffering from mental health difficulties.”

He blamed Nicola Sturgeon for the problem, arguing that under her watch there has been a reduction of 800 officers in Scotland.

READ MORE: Police Scotland splash nearly £20m in staff payoffs over six years as it considers cuts

Mr Golden added: “Police Scotland staff are under immense strain, not least because the number of divisional officers has been cut by around 800 since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.

“In many cases, officers are having to work in crumbling stations and with inadequate equipment too…

“Unless the SNP finally agree to provide Police Scotland with the resources they need – in terms of staff numbers, conditions and equipment – the number of officers suffering from mental health problems is only likely to increase.”

READ MORE: Police representatives hit out at SNP boast over rising officer numbers

Scottish Police Federation chairman David Hamilton said: “Policing takes its toll on people, not just through the trauma that we deal with it, not just through the risk and responsibility that we carry, but also through the long hours and short notice disruption to our lives.

“The police service can only do so much but as with so many things, it comes down to too few doing too much with too little.”

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor described police work as a “relentless but rewarding” job.

She said: “Our people are highly motivated by public service and they have worked relentlessly to improve the lives of people and communities in Scotland every day, against a backdrop of increasing demand.

“The safety and wellbeing of officers and staff and their families is a priority for Police Scotland and we have a range of mechanisms to support our people, including an employee assistance programme, a wellbeing champion network, post-trauma assessment and mental fitness training.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it “greatly values” police officers and staff.

“We continue to support initiatives being undertaken by the Chief Constable to ensure police officers and staff are physically and mentally healthy at a time when Scotland needs its frontline emergency workers more than ever,” he said.

“Officers and staff can access a range of services to care for their physical and mental health through Police Scotland’s Your Wellbeing Matters programme which includes occupational health, employee assistance and the trauma risk management programme.”

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