Mental health in policing must be treated as seriously as physical safety, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has urged.
A new campaign, launched to coincide with Time to Talk Day asks officers to be on the lookout for signs that colleagues might be struggling with their mental health, or even be one of the 25% of emergency workers who have considered taking their own life.
Hear 'Man Up,' Think 'Man Down' urges officers to look deeper and consider whether a colleague being told to 'Man Up', in fact genuinely needs help.
Launching the campaign, Belinda Goodwin, PFEW’s Wellbeing Subcommittee Secretary said:
"We want to get cops to talk to one another, it’s as simple as that, and to take notice when they see changes in any of their colleagues – not to ignore the signs, and worst of all tell them to 'man up', 'get over it' or pull themselves together. The campaign will build awareness of what signs to look out for and signpost to where officers can get help if they need it.
"If we can just get our members and reps to face any issues and seek help, then it can only be a good thing."
Although significant improvements in mental health support have been made in recent years, PFEW continues to press the government and police forces to provide earlier, better and more consistent support.
To date it has been difficult to determine the actual number of police officers who take their own lives. Police forces have not routinely collected this data, and although the Office for National Statistics (ONS) collects data based on coroners’ verdicts, the figures often exclude either non-residents and/or Police Community Support Officers. It is also unclear whether retired or former police officers are routinely included in the figures.
Between 2015 and 2017 more than 20 police officers took their own life every year. That’s almost 2 a month. Something needs to change.
Research has shown that emergency services workers are twice as likely than the public to identify problems at work as the main cause of their mental health problems, but they are also significantly less likely to seek help.
We need, once and for all, put the idea that talking about emotional or mental health is a sign of weakness behind us. Police officers are dying because they aren’t asking for or getting help. They don’t need to “Man Up” they need to speak out.
With a quarter of emergency service workers admitting to thinking about taking their own lives, this campaign encourages officers to take each others mental wellbeing as seriously as they take each others physical safety, and and questions whether we are too dismissive of colleague who may be showing signs of mental health issues - something that has potentially fatal consequences. When you hear 'Man Up', think 'Man Down' offer help.