Dealing with difficult situations is part of the job in the police, but the pandemic has made it particularly challenging. This page outlines the issues, with ideas for coping and links to further help.
Blue Light: Mental health in the police service
Working in the police can be highly demanding. It’s particularly important to protect your mental health and wellbeing – and to do this on a daily basis, not just after experiencing big, traumatic events.
That was always true, even before the pandemic. But things have suddenly got tougher, and thinking about your mental health has never been more important than it is now.
Things have got tougher
Mind’s research has found that, since the pandemic began, workload has increased right across the emergency services. Staff have faced extra challenges to their mental health, and many are experiencing stress and anxiety as a result.
Two thirds of police staff told us that their mental health had got worse – and in many cases, much worse – since the start of the pandemic. It’s a worrying time. Besides the new demands of the job, two thirds of police told us they were concerned about passing coronavirus on to their friends and family, and 42% said their mental health was affected by news and media coverage. It can be hard to find the time or energy to think about keeping yourself well – and a third of emergency staff told us they didn’t look for help because they didn’t think their issues were serious enough.
In his blog on this site, Kiwi, an officer in a police Youth Engagement Team, illustrated how police are just as vulnerable to pandemic issues as anyone else – from the worry of shielding to the social effects of isolation. “When it came to work, I felt like I was able to ‘just get on with it’… however, when the pandemic began, things changed.”
Perhaps you felt similarly?
Supporting police mental health through the pandemic and beyond
Mind’s Blue Light programme is working with the emergency services community to provide advice, resources and ideas to support you in staying well, especially at this exceptional time. We’re working hard to spread the message that, in the police service, it’s OK to seek help.
It’s not just about self-care, though. Support from colleagues in the same situation is really important too, with a quarter of police staff having sought information through their employers to support their mental health. Line managers and mental health champions have a particularly important role to play.
So, we’ve gathered some ideas, tools and resources to help you in keeping yourself and those around you well. Below you’ll find some starting points, directly based on what 1278 police staff, working during the pandemic, told us is the most important at the moment.
This page will keep evolving based on feedback from the police community, and we’ll be adding new resources and sources of help when they become available throughout the year.
Photo from West Midlands Police
Resources in this toolkit:
Healthy processing of traumatic incidents is essential in policing to reset your stress response, to file events as past, and to move on to the next job. This guide can help.
Managing stress and anxiety (Police)
Working in policing may often feel like you are under a lot of pressure, and it’s natural to feel stressed or anxious. Mind have created a PDF booklet aimed at the police service which focuses on the unique mental health challenges you might be experiencing as part of your role.
Lifelines Scotland is a project designed to help first responders to stay well, beat stress and boost your resilience. It includes advice and links especially tailored to help anyone in the police force who is working in Scotland.
Whatever you're going through, Samaritans are always there to listen. As part of Our Frontline, essential services staff who are working on the frontlines can call free on 116 123 to speak in confidence with a trained listening volunteer.
Mind's research shows that emergency service staff are more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 - you might be worried about catching it as a result of your policing work, or passing it on to your loved ones. This PDF guide from the British Psychological Society explains more, with ideas that can help you cope with this anxiety.
Top tips on coping with news anxiety
Police officers told Mind they are particularly concerned with the way the news covers stories about the force, leading to feelings of anger or low mood. This article offers simple tips to help you manage you exposure to media, and the impact it has on your mental wellbeing.
As part of Our Frontline, Shout provides a free 24/7 text support service for emergency services staff and first responders. Text BLUELIGHT to 85258 to talk by text with a trained crisis volunteer.