The number of Surrey police officers with a mental health illness has risen in recent years
Figures released to the Surrey Advertiser under the Freedom of Information Act show that in 2010/11 a total of 19 officers had a least one sickness absence due to a mental health condition. In the following year this rose to 26.
Stress was the most common cause, with 14 officers taking time off for this in 2010/11 and 17 officers doing so the following year.
Acute depression accounted for five people taking time off in the earlier period, which increased to eight in 2011/12 while another was suffering from manic depression.
The length of absences ranged from one day to 169 days but one officer never returned to work in 2010/11. Between April and the end of July this year, eight officers had a minimum of one day off because of acute depression or stress.
A spokesman for the force said: â€œThe number of Surrey Police officers reporting mental health problems remains relatively low and the slight recent increase in the number of reports is in part down to a greater number of regular checks on staff welfare across the organisation.
â€œWhile it would be inappropriate to comment on the specific factors which influence individual officers and staff each referral is assessed on its own merits to ensure they have the help and support required to address any ongoing issues or concerns.â€
Officers are entitled to receive full sickness pay for six months, a further six months at half pay before it is cut to no pay.
Thousands of days are lost each year because of sick leave of this kind.
The force provides an Employee Assistance Programme to tackle the problem, which includes a free 24-hour, seven day a week help line for officers to talk about issues or problems.
One-to-one counselling can also be requested for up to six sessions. Patients can also be referred to occupational health and the forceâ€™s psychologists or psychiatrist.
A force spokesman said there was a â€œrobust mental health policyâ€ and that a range of occupational health support systems were available to help officers and staff back to work. A number of initiatives are in place to help staff to improve their health and wellbeing while a â€œflexible working policyâ€ is also in operation within the force.
â€œIn addition to the GP who is responsible for the primary care of individuals with a mental health problem, Surrey Policeâ€™s Occupational Health Department offers access to more bespoke psychological assessment and other services if there is a specific need,â€ he added.
â€œThe department can also support staff and managers by advising on adjustments in the workplace to enable a successful return to work following a period of absence.â€
Geoff Stuttaford, health and safety secretary for the Police Federation, said: â€œAbout 18 months ago we started to became really concerned about stress within the work place because of increased work and less resources.
â€œThere have been cut backs and the work has to go somewhere. It affects all ranks. Anecdotally weâ€™ve had more suicides but itâ€™s very difficult to do research into that.
â€œDebt is also up among police officers, as they canâ€™t do a second job.â€
He said the nature of the job has changed over recent decades creating increased problems with mental health conditions.
â€œThe slightest thing you do wrong, you get criticised,â€ he added. â€œPeople have been under scrutiny. As soon as there is a complaint you are taken off operation, adding to the stress.â€
Mental health sickness on the rise at Surrey Police