Stressed police may be mental health risk

Policemen and women are at greater risk of experiencing mental health problems as a result of daily psychological stress than those pursuing other careers. This is the suggestion of new research from the University of Buffalo (UB), which also found officers are more likely to suffer long-term physical consequences due to their work.

The study, which considered the wellbeing of Buffalo Police Department members over a five-year period and has been published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, found strong links between the stress of police activity and sleeplessness, suicide and obesity in later life.

John Violanti, Professor of Social and Preventive Medicine at the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, noted there is a perception that policemen who experience problems on the job are not looked upon favourably due to the culture of the force.

Professor Violanti stated: "Not only are you supposed to be superhuman if you're an officer, but you fear asking for help."

Dr Almuth McDowall, a Chartered Psychologist, said: "This US research resonates with our own research here in the UK. The police has been having a bad press lately, but people forget that officers and staff do a demanding and often difficult job day in day out.

"An example is PC Ian Dibell who sacrificed his own life to deal with an incident a few days ago. The job can be inherently dangerous, and cut backs in numbers have meant that demands on individuals have increased.

"Frontline officers are particularly at risk for stress and burnout, but also at risk for work-family conflict. The welfare of the Police must remain a key concern as the effects of the spending review take hold.”

You can follow Dr McDowall on Twitter.