Improving trauma resilience and job quality in UK policing

Credit: trawets1/flickr

Research led by Brendan Burchell and Jess Miller at the Department of Sociology in collaboration with Police Care UK has revealed for the first time the prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the UK police and has provided the world’s first incidence rate for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) in a profession.

The project’s research involved an anonymous online survey of 18,175 police personnel across the UK, which provided the world’s first prevalence rate for work-related CPTSD and the UK’s first police PTSD prevalence rate. The survey revealed that 20% of UK police are likely to have PTSD or CPTSD, 12% of service officers suffer from CPTSD and 72% are unaware they have the condition, even though the symptoms have an extreme negative impact on personal, family and working lives. Of those who reported having had a psychological issue related to work, 93% said they would go to work as usual.

A randomised control trial to test the feasibility of Trauma Impact Prevention Techniques (TIPT) has demonstrated that teaching mapping and timeline techniques in a police training environment can facilitate processing of traumatic or difficult incidents, providing immediate and statistically significant improvements in feelings of ease. Since the randomised control trial, the techniques have been rolled out to over 2,000 serving officers in the UK so far. Evaluation data collected over the year shows statistically significant improvements in ease of feeling about traumatic events and of recall after TIPT compared to time spent in reflection.

Informed by rich qualitative research with police in high-risk roles, the project’s wider study of trauma resilience has been steered in close collaboration with senior national policymakers to improve police wellbeing. The work also now feeds into the Emergency Services workstream led by the Duke of Cambridge at the Royal Foundation.

National impact has been achieved across four areas: raising awareness of PTSD (including its relationship with poor job quality); delivering national training on trauma prevention; developing and delivering new trauma prevention/management tools; and, influencing national policy, primarily within the police force but also within the UK civil service.

The work has attracted interest from Canada, Hong Kong and Belgium. It continues to feed into national policy development and has already featured three times in House of Commons debates.

“Awareness of PTSD has been hidden beneath a culture of denial and the research has broken the silence, enabling us to generate a national call for action to invest in the mental health of our frontline officers and staff.”

– National Police Wellbeing Lead and Chief Constable of Lancashire