Police Scotland has been hit by a 40% increase in officers and staff being absent due to mental health problems.

Almost 90,000 days were lost to the service in the past 12 months as a result of the problem, official data has revealed.

The figures, obtained from Police Scotland by the Scottish Liberal Democrats through
freedom of information legislation, found:

• 337,525 police officer and staff days lost to psychological disorders since April 2019.

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• An increase in the number of working days lost due to psychological disorders for police officers, from 43,413 in 2019/20 to 61,969 in the twelve months to September 2023.

• An increase in the number of working days lost due to psychological disorders for police staff from 20,384 in 2019/20 to 26,771 in the twelve months to September 2023.

• A snapshot of the situation found that on 30 September 2023, there were 202 police officers and 94 staff absent under the absence category ‘Psychological Disorders’ and categorised as a long-term absence. Of these, 134 police officers and 54 staff were related to stress.

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The Lib Dems justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “These figures show the toll that mental ill health is taking on the police service. 

"At any given time, dozens of experienced officers and staff are unavailable because they have had to step back for the sake of their health. 

“Police officers are often the ones to assist us in our moments of greatest need, yet the
Scottish Government has hung officers and staff out to dry when it comes to providing them
with the support they need to manage their own mental health.

“As a result of SNP budget cuts, the police are clearly preparing for a future in which they
have fewer officers to keep the public safe. That will mean even more pressure on the
officers and staff who remain."

He added:  “Scottish Liberal Democrats want to see many more mental health staff working alongside the police, mental health first aiders supporting colleagues and annual staff surveys to
identify issues quickly and provide support wherever it is needed.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We welcome the Chief Constable’s commitment to the wellbeing of officers and staff and we continue to support Police Scotland initiatives in this area.

“Officers and staff can access services to care for their physical and mental health through Police Scotland’s Your Wellbeing Matters and their network of ‘Wellbeing Champions’.

“There are 379 more police officers than in 2007 and Scotland continues to have more officers per head of population than England and Wales.

"Our draft Budget investment of £1.55 billion in policing in 2024-25 – an increase of £92.7 million ­– will support frontline services and allow Police Scotland to restart officer recruitment for the year ahead.”