Almost £200,000 was spent providing counselling to 1,250 traumatised and burnt out police officers and staff in Northern Ireland over the past five years, the PSNI has revealed.
The startling extent of stress levels has been revealed by the force after countless warnings by the Northern Ireland Police Federation that the police service and its officers were being stretched to breaking point.
It’s now emerged that 14 per cent of the 8,976 police officers and staff who are employed by the PSNI today have seen therapists.
“Counselling was provided for a range of mental health impacts from personal stressors e.g. bereavement, family illnesses, organisational stressors e.g. impacts of bullying, increase in demands of the role, problematic relationships with managers and colleagues, Professional Standards Department stressors and operational stressors such as exposure to critical incidents, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and mood disorders, vicarious trauma, burnout and compassion fatigue,” the PSNI stated, in response to a Freedom of Information request.
The PSNI said that of the 1,250, 1000 officers and 250 police staff had received counselling.
The personnel attended an average of eight sessions at an hourly cost of £18.62, resulting in an overall bill of £186,200.
Last month in his report to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Chief Constable, George Hamilton, said he needs more officers to maintain ‘operational resilience.’
“While we have recently agreed a balanced budget for 2016/17, this has only been possible by making decisions that will have an impact this year and in the years ahead. “As previously outlined to the Board, our professional judgement is that a minimum of 6,963 officers are required to maintain operational resilience, supported by the appropriate number of staff. “To protect Police and Staff numbers and to achieve a balanced budget for 2016-17, will require a cut in the region of 10 per cent to non-staff budgets.
“The impact of these reductions and reductions in Police Staff levels as a result of Voluntary Exit Scheme will be felt in the coming months,” he said.
There are currently 6,822 regular officers employed by the force.
In 2013, the current Chairman of the Police Federation, Mark Lindsay, speaking then as Vice-Chair of the police union, said: “The hole that is left by insufficient police numbers is being filled by overtime,” he told MPs. “Now at the moment there is a concentration on the public disorder and there is a massive surge in police overtime.
“In some districts such as North and West Belfast, Londonderry, along the border counties, have that surge all the time. Those officers sooner or later are going to be burnt out. You cannot sustain 100 hours plus per month across the year.”