Charity sector wellbeing support for UK police

King, Helena; Harrison, Virginia and Pike, Graham (2021). Charity sector wellbeing support for UK police. In: Conference of the Association of European Qualitative Researchers in Psychology 2020 (EQuiP), 16-19 Jun 2021, Online.

Abstract

Research aim/background: The job of policing necessitates exposure to profoundly stressful incidents under increasingly demanding conditions. Studies show police have higher rates of mental illness than other professions, and officers derive support via occupational health, the NHS, or charities. There is no published research on the role played by the voluntary sector. This project elucidates the role of the charity sector in supporting police wellbeing.
Methods: Sample: organisations supporting UK police officers registered with the Charities Commission. Data collection/ analysis: one day research workshop to identify scope/themes, x16 semi-structured interviews with senior managers, transcribed, and analysed via thematic analysis
Findings: Participants identified changes to police working practices (lone working, lack of debrief) impacting upon mental health. An increased need for psychological support was tempered by substantial barriers to accessing employer/ NHS health services. Barriers included in-force stigma around mental health, reluctance to disclose ill-health due to negative career repercussions, and issues around subjudicy require security-cleared therapists. Police wellbeing charities fill this gap by providing independent specialist care which is both flexible and discrete. Support tends to be person-centred and can be accessed confidentially without line-manager signoff. Other broad services offered by charities (e.g. physical therapies, flexible use grants/loans, training, peer support) assist officers holistically and were often preventative rather than curative.
Conclusion: The person-centred, biopsychosocial approach taken by police wellbeing charities complements statutory health services and fulfils specialised needs for individuals working in the policing profession. Challenges including fragmentation, geographical gaps, inconsistent funding and lack of monitoring of benefits.

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