Stress is a common and a costly problem for organisations, not just in terms
of time lost from work but also in terms of decreased performance and reduced
One in four people will experience an episode of mental illness at some point in their life.
At any one time, one in six workers will experience depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress.
Stress is the commonest cause of long-term sickness absence in the Metropolitan Police Service, not just in terms of time lost from work but also in terms of diminished performance and reduced productivity. This is also true of the 160,000 police officers in England and Wales (Association of Chief Police Officers 2006).
- 250,000 police officer days were lost due to stress-related illness.
- The cost of stress-related absenteeism in the Police service was estimated at around Ã‚Â£40 million a year
- On an average day, approximately 1,086 officers were absent every day as a result of stress related illness. This figure is equivalent to the total number of police officers in a small police service in the UK e.g. Wiltshire or Warwickshire.
- Stress related illness was responsible for an average of two days lost per officer per year
The Met’s Occupational Health unit has produced and delivered a series of three stress awareness training DVDs designed specifically to equip officers with the skills they need to prevent and address stress.
The aim is to create a climate and culture within the organisation that will foster proactive development of resilience to the stresses and strains of modern life and work.
By equipping police officers with the skills and techniques to become more self-aware and proficient in self-help techniques, these training programmes are designed to empower staff to take responsibility for preserving and maintaining their psychological well-being.
The Met’s training packages are unique in that they use professionally acted, typical real-life scenarios of life and work stress to deliver their messages. The design and delivery of this training actively engages the imagination and the attention of the individual – an essential pre-requisite for learning.
The DVDs show various typical life and work scenarios that could lead to stress. Stress awareness training sessions are delivered to small groups within the framework of an interactive discussion.
The first training package is titled “Triggers” and its aim is to destigmatise stress among Authorised Firearm Officers (AFOs). It looks at the specific demands of the work of AFOs and the demands of life and how the demands of life and work can be cumulative and if these demands are excessive, repeated or prolonged can result in stress.
The training confronts the fact that suicide is the commonest non-accidental cause of death in young males aged 20 to 40; the same group that comprises authorised firearms officers. This DVD illustrates how if the early warning signs of stress are ignored stress can lead to clinical depression and how depression, if left untreated can lead to suicide.
All AFOs in the Met receive this training.
The second training DVD is titled “The Camel’s Back” and this is essentially a toolkit for managers. It is predicated on the premise that the traits of emotional intelligence are not necessarily inborn but that these competencies can be taught and learned.
It aims to equip managers with theÃ‚Â emotional intelligence and the skillsÃ‚Â they need to:
- Manage in such a way to prevent stress developing in their staff
- Recognise signs of stress in their staff at an early stage and
- To work with their staff to address stress effectively
The Camels Back also translates the six HSE Stress Management Standards into a practical framework that managers can use in everyday work situations. It also includes a user-friendly approach to stress risk assessment in the workplace
The latest and final training DVD, titled Shrinking Clouds, aims to provide all staff with the practical tips and techniques they need to developing resilience manage stress, the nuts and bolts of to stress and managing both life and work stress. Shrinking Clouds aims to equip staff with the skill they need firstly to manage stress in the moment by cognitive reappraisal, relaxation guidance and breaking the state. It also looks at building resilience through lifestyle choices aimed at promoting mental well being in the long term.
All three training DVDs have specific literature providing supporting information in electronic format.
The addition of these proactive measures to compliment the Met’s existing reactive stress interventions has had a positive impact upon attendance. The efficacy of these stress reduction measures is directly reflected in the reduction in sickness absence from 10.2 days per officer per year to 7.2 days per officer per year over the past 5 years. Also, absenteeism in the Met. due to stress related illness has fallen by 16% over the past two years.
In addition to these bottom line benefits, there are ‘softer’ benefits associated with the provision of stress awarenwss training in that as the Met. invests in the well-being of its staff, the improvement in morale, performance and productivity impacts positively on its consumers (the people of London) and its partner organisations within the community.
In summary, stress awareness training in the Met. has a range of direct and indirect benefits to the individual and the Police service. Employee’s benefit as individuals, the police service benefits from a more efficient and productive workforce and, overarching all of this, the people of London benefit from a happier and healthy Metropolitan Police Service.
By, Dr Eileen Cahill-Canning, Chief Medical Officer, Metropolitan Police Service
Eileen will be speaking at the Health @ Work Summit 2009, taking place on Tuesday 2nd and Wednesday 3rd June 2009.
For more details on featured speakers and programme, visit: Health at Work