Police take record of nearly 500,000 days off sick because of mental health

A Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats has exposed the issues police forces have faced

Published

Police officers took a record number of days off work citing mental health issues, new data has revealed.

Data gained from a Freedom of Information (FoI) request shows that the number of days taken off by police officers because of mental ill health rose by nine percent in a year, from 457,154 in 2020 to 497,154 in 2021.

An increase in mental health problems was reported by 24 of 37 police forces who responded to the FoI request, put forward by the Liberal Democrats.

Warwickshire Police reported the highest rise in cases, with 4,781 days taken as a result of mental sickness, a 68 percent rise from the previous year.

Exposure to issues created by the pandemic resulted in greater mental health issues among officers, the former HM Inspector of Police has said.
Exposure to issues created by the pandemic resulted in greater mental health issues among officers, the former HM Inspector of Police has said.

Zoe Billingham, former HM Inspector of Police, suggested that the data shows greater prevalence of mental ill health among the emergency services as a result of what they faced during the pandemic.

She said: “Police and other front-line services kept us safe through the pandemic.

“The pandemic was a great unknown. People were really fearful of dying and coming into contact with the virus, and many people did.

“Mental health and other professions were there from the get-go on the front line and, with enforced lockdown, there is an awful lot of trauma that the country is dealing with now. There has been a doubling in referrals for children with mental health as a result of the lockdown period.”

Over 2.4 million police working days have been lost to mental ill health issues over the past five years according to the data.
Over 2.4 million police working days have been lost to mental ill health issues over the past five years according to the data.

Ms Billingham told The Telegraph greater awareness of mental health issues by authorities and recognition of the risks meant officers were more likely to acknowledge and report mental health.

Overall, 2.4 million police working days have been lost to mental ill health issues over the past five years according to the data.

The Liberal Democrats have warned there is a "mental health epidemic" amongst police officers.

The party has called on the Government to provide further mental health support for officers by funding proactive mental health and wellbeing check-ups for officers every six months.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman, said: “It is deeply worrying to see more and more police days being lost to mental health issues.

“Police officers on the front line do an incredible job serving their communities. But we know the stresses of policing can take a heavy toll on the mental health of officers, leading in some cases to exhaustion and burnout.

“Years of under-resourcing under the Conservatives means the thin blue line is being stretched to breaking point. This can have a catastrophic impact on the well-being of individual police officers.

“The Government needs to get to grips with the growing mental health epidemic affecting our police and other front-line workers, and ensure support is available quickly to those who need it.”