HUNDREDS of police officers have been signed off sick from work for their mental health.

Thames Valley Police said it treats officer welfare as a ‘key priority’ after an investigation by this paper revealed more staff than ever are calling in sick with stress and anxiety.

In the year leading up to April 2020, 450 officers were off work – nearly double the 267 who couldn’t work with depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress) and other psychological illnesses five years ago.

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Data obtained in a Freedom of Information request shows the number of officers off work for their mental health has been rising every year – here are the figures:

  • 2015/16 – 267 officers
  • 2016/17 – 316 officers
  • 2017/18 – 372 officers
  • 2018/19 – 411 officers
  • 2019/20 – 450 officers

The sick leave calendar runs from April to March so the latest data available is to the end of September.

In those five months, 225 officers were recorded off work with mental health – 126 with stress and 23 with PTSD.

Last year stress was the biggest reason that 261 officers were struggling, this can be compared to the 158 in 2015/16, 182 in 2016/17, 222 in 2017/18 and 241 in 2018/19.

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Depression has also been put down to hundreds of officers taking time off work with anxiety following closely behind.

The Thames Valley Police Federation Chairman, Craig O’Leary spoke about the alarming figures, saying: “I’m really pleased to see that policing has finally woken up to the fact that you can’t keep exposing officers to trauma like they have been without it having an impact. Cleary in some extreme cases that will result in officers being diagnosed with PTSD.

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“It’s a sad reality of the nature of the job that police officers do on a daily basis. We are exposed to some extremely traumatic things and there’s no getting away from that, that is what we do. It’s how we react to it and how we treat our officers that’s really important post-diagnosis of such things as PTSD.”

In 2018, senior police officer PC Mike Ellis opened up for the first time about his struggles with depression and revealed the huge pressures on those tasked with keeping us safe.

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In a bid to raise more awareness about the issue that affects more than half of all emergency service workers , the now retired PC said: “You pull pieces of people out from under trucks when they’ve been run over and things like that and sometimes it all catches up with you.

“Depression skews your view of reality: it is a dark and dangerous thing, and we all know it can lead to the ultimate grief.”

Concern has been raised nationally about the demands placed on officers amid claims of growing workloads and cuts to budgets and officer numbers.

In 2019, TVP employed 4,223 police officers – 2,808 male and 1,415 female.

Another 3,453 people were employed as staff.

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In August last year it was revealed that 600 of Boris Johnson’s promised new frontline police officers were expected to be recruited in the three counties.

The elected-head of the force, police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld, said eight years of cuts to the police would be ‘made good’ by the officers who would be hired over three years.

A spokesperson said: “Thames Valley Police is aware that there has been an increase in the numbers of officers who have been signed off work due to mental health reasons.“The force has a wide range of support networks in place for officers and staff who are suffering from mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression, and people are encouraged to make use of these whenever they feel it is necessary. Further, line managers within the force may encourage officers and staff to contact Occupational Health if they feel that this would be beneficial.

“The rise in the number of people being signed off for mental health reasons demonstrates that the support networks as well as the referrals to Occupational Health are effective, and shows an increased confidence in our officers and staff to make use of these facilities, and to talk about their mental health."

"This also reflects an increased awareness of mental health issues in society in general in recent years, which results in an increased willingness to seek help at an earlier stage.“The wellbeing and welfare of our officers and staff is a key priority for Thames Valley Police.”