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Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 - President's Blog

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, PSA President Paul Griffiths discusses the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health and wellbeing of police and other frontline workers:

Globally, we have been in a prolonged period where mental health has been tested in ways it never has before. It’s crucial that we understand this and that as we adapt for our future, a recognition of this sits at the heart of the support we offer to our workforces and our communities. 
Police officers, and all frontline workers often find themselves in a unique position when it comes to processing feelings surrounding traumatic incidents.  
We all watched the pandemic slowly unfold on screen, with reports of the virus at first many miles away, before becoming a real threat at home.  In time, we were all personally impacted, often in the most tragic of ways by losing a loved one, and by having our freedom restricted as lockdown was enforced.  For most, the day-to-day hardships became centred around changing behaviours and staying safe at home, watching the difficult reports from the safety of a TV or phone screen.  For frontline workers, whether police officers, hospital staff, or supermarket workers, this was an entirely different experience.
They too returned home and watched press conferences, spoke to friends online or experienced the horrific trauma of loss, but throughout this, they had to put themselves directly in harm’s way.  
We must not underestimate the mental health impact of this.
Our people are tired.  
Our members are senior operational leaders who had led the policing response to the pandemic and in a recent survey, 55% said COVID-19 had a negative impact on morale. The Police Federation’s recent demand and capacity survey showed that 77% had experienced feelings of stress, low mood, anxiety, or other difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing over the previous 12 months.
We’re now at a pivotal moment for policing. ‘Pre-covid’ demand is already nearly at a ‘normal’ level, Covid enforcement has not ended, and ahead of us we face a summer with exceptionally high UK-based tourism, which all has an impact on policing.
Our workforce will do what it always does so well and will respond.  Our people will keep going and will do everything in their power to keep people safe, but are we affording them the same duty of care?
Our National Police Wellbeing Service is now well established and is doing wonderful work to better support our people, but it is now catering for a workforce which has experienced extreme fatigue as a result of a global pandemic.
More needs to be done now, through the national Police Covenant and through force wellbeing initiatives to ensure that we protect those people who have remained at the frontline throughout this.  HR processes and policies must be re-written with an understanding of the impact of Covid so that we can support people through the impact of a trauma unlike anything they have trained for or had experience in. 
We are a Service that cares – for victims, for witnesses, for communities and for anyone we come into contact with.  Now, let’s make sure we can say with pride that we are a Service that cares for its people.