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Express & Star comment: Police cuts fuel mental health pain

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

Deep cuts to police resources over the last nine years have had a number of well documented consequences.

West Midlands Police's Lloyd House headquarters

We have seen a rise in crime in all its forms, with violent attacks – and knife crime in particular – understandably gathering the majority of the headlines.

Police stations have closed and there is a strong argument to suggest that the public have rarely felt less safe on our streets, with beat bobbies now a rarity in some areas.

As the thin blue line has continues to get thinner, crime continues to spiral out of control.

But a much less discussed issue is the impact of these cuts on police officers themselves.

Those who have remained on the job have found themselves being forced to cope with ever increasing workloads.

Leave days are cancelled as senior officers battle to deal with the challenges before them. The stress levels for the rank and file are through the roof.

With all of this in mind, it is hardly surprising to see the large amount of time off taken by West Midlands Police officers due to mental health issues.

Over the last year, more than 40,000 sick days were recorded – up by a quarter from 2017-18.

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There are undoubtedly several reasons behind this worrying rise, but chief among them is the strain our hard-working officers are being placed under on a daily basis.

Dealing with the kind of traumatic events faced by officers is never easy, but the experience is even more damaging when personnel numbers in force response units has been scaled down to the bare minimum.

There needs to be an appropriate number of officers in our police forces – not just to tackle crime, but also to act as a support mechanism for colleagues.

Sadly, what we are facing now is a mental health time bomb in our constabularies.

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Without sufficient numbers, they are ill-equipped to fight crime, and unable to provide the support required in such a high pressure job.

Tragically, around the country there have been instances of officers who have killed themselves because they could not cope.

The rise in mental health issues among police officers is yet another devastating result of cuts to force budgets.

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