THE mental health of police officers is being put at risk as they are increasingly sent out alone, the Federation has claimed.

While support is available for officers within the force, some feel they cannot ask for help, and there are fewer officers than ever to speak to about it.

Brad Jackson, secretary of the North Yorkshire Police Federation, said ‘single-crewing’ meant officers who had to deal with disturbing incidents alone could suffer longer without immediate support.

He said: “A lot of times, officers are single-crewed and that’s something I’m passionately against, especially on night shifts. Not just for the safety element, but if you go to a distressing or disturbing job, if there’s no-one sat next to you, who are you going to talk to?

“It’s those little observations that could make the difference. It’s another drawback of single crewing. It’s not all the time, but when you have only got so many officers and so many jobs coming in, it happens.

“Another concern, especially on nights, is when you get tired, you may be a little more emotionally vulnerable, and if you go to a car accident or a sudden death, suddenly you’re stood down. You’re on your own with no-one to talk to about it. You might end up going back to an empty station to clean up or file a report.”

The Federation recently set up an independent counselling services for officers who do not feel comfortable speaking with occupational health, and officers have to work together to recognise mental health issues in themselves and others.

A spokeswoman for the force said training was regularly carried out to help officers focus on mental health interventions with the public, but would also be valuable to their fellow colleagues.

She said: “Another key aspect of the training is to encourage officers to think about their own mental health and that of their colleagues, and help them to understand how they can support each other. As part of an ongoing wellbeing programme across the force, officers and staff are often reminded of the many support mechanisms in place regarding welfare and encourage them to seek support whenever is necessary.”

“NYP has a Welfare Advisory Service which provide mental health support, advice and help through a number of different means including counselling services and the Occupational Health Team are available to assist staff with keeping physically healthy and safe while at work.”

The force also uses a ‘Trauma Risk Management Model’, which “encourages officers, staff and volunteers who may have been exposed to a traumatic event, to talk openly about their experiences”.

The spokeswoman said: “From this, our TRiM practitioners can assess the impact on the individual and make a recommendation to them about the welfare support they may require, to help them cope and recover. Officers also receive a great deal of support from the Federation.”

Mr Jackson said he was grateful that many officers were changing their attitudes towards mental health support, but there was still work to be done.

He said: “I think we’re quite lucky today that attitudes of officers are changing. Before, people thought they could cope with everything and people are starting slowly but surely to reach out for help which is available to them. It’s just a long road.”