Sick leave caused by stress and mental health problems is rocketing at North East police forces, new figures reveal.
A Freedom of Information Request showed the number of days taken off by both officers and civilian staff due to anxiety, stress, depression and other issues had risen at Northumbria Police by 122% in the last three years
Police representatives blamed Government cuts for burdening staff with unmanageable workloads, saying they were “far too deep over far too short a period of time.”
And Cleveland, where police numbers have been cut by 16%, had the second highest rate of sick days in the country with a staggering 260% rise over three years.
Northumbria Police Federation chairman Gordon Armstrong said: “We lay the blame firmly at the Government’s door.
“We support the chief constable in her efforts to maintain front-line policing and the service to the public, but the significant cuts that the government has imposed make this becoming increasingly difficult.
“Police work is a very, very stressful business. We attend things on a daily basis – sudden deaths, serious road traffic collisions, up to the most serious murders. And of course officers can can be thrust into any sort of situation at any moment in the day.
“If the same amount of work’s getting done then obviously it’s going to have a serious impact on the workload. That can lead to stress and in many cases to depression. These cuts are far too deep over far too short a period of time, and there’s not going to be any let-up.”
Northumbria Police employs 3,700 people and when divided amongst that number its sick days were among the lowest in the country.
But it still saw an alarming rise from 1,323 sick days in 2010/11 to 2,943 in the last financial year.
A spokesman for the force said better sickness recording and “greater acceptance and understanding” of mental health may have bumped up the figures,
Assistant chief officer Bernie McCardle added: “There are lots of reasons why officers and staff can be absent. Stress related absence, for example, covers a combination of issues which may not necessarily be work related. We will continue to do all we can to support our personnel and provide them with the medical and counselling advice they need to enable them to return to work.”
Over the same period, Durham saw the number of sick days taken due to mental health issues go up by 37% (from 2,047 to 2,821) while in Clevland the sickness more than tripled from 1,464 to 5,369 - the equivalent of 3.7 days off for every member of staff.
Iain Spittal, the deputy chief constable at Cleveland Police, said: “We don’t underestimate the impact of psychological illness and understand there are some very poorly people in the organisation who we will continue to provide support and advice to. We have recognised the importance of reducing levels of sickness by looking further into why officers may not feel they are able to attend work.”
Mr Armstrong urged anyone suffering from mental health problems to reach out to their superiors and praised support services.