Ex-officer criticises the Met Police as mental health figures soar

The number of Met Police working days lost due to mental health has increased by almost a third in the last four years.

According to figures released on 21 September by the Mayor’s office, the total of mental-health related absences among Met Police officers and staff has increased by 30% between the financial years 2018/19 to 2021/22.

Stress, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are among some of the mental health issues that have caused these absences to jump from from 81,576 to 106,412 in four years. 

Former Met Police officer Steve Thornton described the rise in mental health in the Met as “unforgiving” and put it down to a lack of wellbeing resources in the force. 

He said: “The mental health and wellbeing provision from the force is grossly inadequate.

“From a former police officer’s perspective I think officers are not having the chance to analyse what they have been through.

“The support mechanisms have been removed. What helped me to get through it all was the nucleus of police officers who supported each other. 

“That unfortunately has been removed because lots of officers are now working remotely … so there is no outlet for them to discuss what they’re going through. 

“There’s no picking up the signs and symptoms of someone who is struggling.”

He also added that some of the counsellors providing support for officers and staff are not trauma trained and in one particular case a suicidal officer was told he would have to wait eight to 12 weeks before speaking to a counsellor. 

Steve Thornton runs a wellbeing service for serving and retired police officers, police staff and their families called Trojan Wellbeing. 

The service aims to provide peer and professional support to officers, raise awareness and break down the mental health stigma in the emergency services. 

Thornton attributes the increase in criminality in the Met Police to the “mental health crisis”, questioning why “good police officers” find themselves in a position where they are making these decisions.

He stated: “This is something that needs to be looked at unfortunately.”

This data came to light when Labour Politician and Member of the London Assembly Unmesh Desai asked Mayor Sadiq Khan for the statistics during a Mayor’s Question Time in June. 

The full dataset was released by the Mayor’s office in September.

A spokesman from the Mayor’s office said: “The Mayor is working closely with the new Met Commissioner to ensure all officers and staff in the Met receive the appropriate training, equipment and care to succeed in their roles and make London safer.”

In 2019, Police Care UK published results from a research study called ‘Policing: The Job & the Life’. 

The research, which was funded by Police Care UK and conducted by the University of Cambridge, highlighted that one in five serving police officers in the UK are living with either Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex PTSD, both of which are anxiety disorders triggered by traumatic events. 

Most of these officers are not aware that they may be struggling with such a mental illness and 93% will go to work as usual regardless.

It also found that 90% of the 18,000 police officers and staff in the UK who took part in the study, have been exposed to trauma and for some this is on a daily basis.

Moreover, 65% did not think this was well managed in their force.

A spokesperson from Police Care UK said: “On average we receive 100-120 new referrals a month, with the majority of these being mental health concerns relating to PTSD, CPSTD, job related anxiety, depression and stress.

“We know this is a real problem and we work hard to fill gaps in support provision and to build resilience across the service. 

“We will continue to support those working within UK policing as best we can for as long as we can.”

A further investigation into the stigma of mental health in the UK Police Force for the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction in 2020 found that there is still a significant ‘Macho Culture’ within the police.

The investigation highlighted that officers still do not feel comfortable disclosing mental illness as they may be considered weaker or less masculine as a result. 

A number of the participants in the investigation also indicated that alcohol had become a coping mechanism for the pressures of work and psychological symptoms they faced.

The Metropolitan Police has not responded to a request for a comment. 

In response to the soaring mental health related absence figures in the Met Police Service, a representative from the Met Police told the Evening Standard: “The health and wellbeing of our police officers and staff is of paramount importance. 

“The Met have a vast range of ways our people can get the support they need during challenging times.

“Specialist Occupational Health support is provided to those officers and staff directly affected by traumatic events.”

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Andre K
Andre K
12 December 2022 6:51 pm

Thank you Holly, this is unfortunately a very serious issue for many serving and retired staff.

I believe it is also an issue for other emergency services but can only comment from my own background.

It is sad and shocking that it falls on charities and support groups set up like Steve’s to deal with the fall out.

The damage caused to officers and as a result of mental illness, their families has been overlooked for a long time.

Families, partners suffer with those who do not get the help they need. It is imperative that all are cared for

Unfortunately as long as there is no one to bring an organized action for negligence, I feel that there will be little change.

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