In recent months whenever I speak with my friends within the Police Service I have been hearing the same thing repeated by many an officer from different forces. That is that Police Officers are at their wits end, sickness is increasing and why more and more are taking time off due to depression. Many Officers are “jumping ship” and seeking alternative employment to escape the Police Service and move on to new ventures.
I contacted the below forces to ask about their Officer sickness record, the number of Officers off with depressive illness and how many Officers they have lost between the time period shown.
All forces were asked about the number of Police Officers of all ranks who have taken sick leave between January and July 2014 and the same period in 2013. They were also asked how many of those Officers were off with depressive illness.
West Yorkshire Police
WYP has seen an increase in the number of Officers off work due to ill health with 1330 in the first 6 months of 2013 and 1414 in the first 6 months of 2014.
Between those same two periods West Yorkshire Police have had an increase of 86% off work with anxiety, depression or stress (Depressive Illness). They point out that “Low Mood” is not a recognised or recorded reason for sickness despite this having been used by GPs on “sick notes”.
South Yorkshire Police
SYP have seen a decrease in the number of Officers off work due to ill health with 1335 in the first 6 months of 2013 and 1176 in the first 6 months of 2014.
The force has also seen an increase in the number of Officers off work with Depressive Illness however of 70%.
Humber seem in good shape with only 751 Officers off sick in the first 6 months of 2013 and a reduction to 684 for the same period of 2014.
When it comes to Depressive Illness Humberside Police have seen only a small increase of 6%
Greater Manchester Police
GMP have also seen a reduction in sickness levels with 3318 in the first 6 month of 2013 and 3272 in the first 6 month of 2014.
However they too have had an increase in Officers suffering Depressive Illness (they also do not record “low mood”) by 26%
So it seems that whilst the levels of sickness differs between forces with some seeing an increase and others a decrease, there is one thing in common amongst all 4 forces questioned…
Depression amongst Police Officers is increasing.
Whilst some of the forces were keen to highlight that this could be for any number of reasons including personal, home life, financial and [lastly] work life, there is no escaping the fact that our Police Officers are feeling the strain.
My timeline was narrow and I have only obtained results from 4 forces (North Yorkshire and Cleveland are yet to respond to my FOI requests) but the figures still make interesting reading.
I KNOW that depression is on the rise within the Police because my friends and colleagues talk to me either personally or via SIREN (@SirenSupport) which I set up initially to look at the issue of depressive illness within the Police and the absolute lack of knowledge, understanding and awareness training given to Officers. I KNOW that depression is on the rise because I witnessed it first hand prior to resigning in February and experienced it myself whilst serving. And now I KNOW that depression is on the rise because the numbers say so.
The sad and worrying thing is there are many many others suffering out there who have not taken time off, who are worried about admitting they are suffering and who do so in silence due to the stigma, the reputation and the fear of what people will say and what will happen to their careers. The complete absence of knowledge and awareness both within the Police Service and the wider general public is a huge barrier when it comes to recognising and managing Depressive Illness and is something that MUST be addressed.
Sadly, to date, I have yet to make any leeway with any force and although the College of Policing initially showed an interest and ACPO assured me that this would be looked at in 2014, nothing has progressed and people are still suffering both openly and in silence.
Next Blog:- Why West Yorkshire Police Senior Management desperately need to address staff welfare before it’s too late