Published: 16 February 2017

Improving the psychological well-being of police officers

Provisions for mental health in the UK have become a major topic in public and political debate in the UK. Recent research from the University of Surrey’s sociology team has revealed the lack of support for mental health specifically within the police force, with 86 per cent of survey respondents saying the service must prioritise support for mental health needs following a major incident.

The research, supported by The Police Dependants’ Trust (PDT), investigated the experiences of those who sustain injury whilst working for the police service. Drawing on a national online survey of more than 10,000 police officers and staff, and semi-structured telephone interviews, the study has produced new insights into the experiences of police employees who have been injured on duty.

Significantly, the research exposed the degree of ‘invisible’ psychological injuries experienced by officers and highlighted mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and PTSD as a major concern. It was found that officers and staff were twice as likely to need time off for a mental health injury than for a physical injury, and that respondents who experienced psychological injury were less satisfied with the support that they were offered than were those with physical injuries.

As a result of the project, the Police Dependants’ Trust (PDT) has made £3 million available over three years to help forces address identified gaps in provision and support those who suffer psychological harm as a result of their policing role. Gill Scott Moore, CEO of PDT, states:

We were keen to respond immediately to the clear need that exists for better mental health support.

The results have led to an active campaign entitled ‘Welfare that Works’ which has raised the profile and public awareness of mental health issues within the police force. With key recommendations for change and increased investment in mental health support, this research will lead to better provision for police officer’s psychological needs and ultimately a stronger, more effective workforce.

To see the full report, please visit the Police Dependants’ Trust website or watch the film.

For further details of criminology and criminal justice research at Surrey, see the University’s Department of Sociology webpage

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