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How to reduce psychological sickness absence in police forces

Added on the 5th April 2016

New figures released by the BBC today show that psychological sickness absence in the police service has increased 35% in the past five years.

In the report, the Government is cited as saying ‘policing is stressful and forces must help staff’. So what can be done to help?

Professor Neil Greenberg, March on Stress Director and President of the UK Psychological Trauma Society (UKPTS), said: “Organisations whose staff experience high levels of exposure to traumatic incidents are, unsurprisingly, more likely to witness high sickness absence following those events. Combined with increasing workload pressures in police forces and potentially ‘stressful’ working environments, police officers and staff clearly need support mechanisms in place.

“We work with an increasing number of police forces to provide peer support training through TRiM (Trauma Risk Management) – a form of evidence-based peer support which originated in the UK military. It offers early detection of those in psychological distress, with the model based on keeping employees functioning after traumatic events by providing support to those who require it.

“TRiM uses the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)-recommended period of ‘watchful waiting’ before signposting those identified as needing support through an organisation’s existing mechanisms e.g. occupational health, welfare or counselling programmes.

“A report into the Cumbrian Police shootings in June 2010 found that the use of Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) provided significant benefits to those exposed to the traumatic events. Additionally, sickness absence in those who did not receive a TRiM intervention was two and a half times more likely than those who had received a TRiM response.

“Further research shows that people who have been exposed to trauma are much more likely to talk to a colleague than a health professional in the first instance which is probably why TRiM works so well. Talking to colleagues is a way of overcoming the stigma associated with seeking professional help for mental health problems. We have also seen this work for non-traumatic stress and we now offer peer support training for occupational-based stress through our StRaW (Sustaining Resilience at Work) programme of training.

“Also crucially important is the support of senior leaders and having a robust policy in place. Guidance to help with this is available to organisations from the UKPTS.”

Useful links:

BBC news

TRiM: an organizational response to traumatic events in Cumbria Constabulary

UKPTS guidance

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