'Senior officers tried to urge policeman back to work after his second suicide attempt'
An ex-policeman has claimed that senior officers tried to encourage him to go back to work shortly after he tried to take his own life for a second time.
Speaking to the BBC's Nolan Show yesterday, the anonymous caller said he went off work in 2004 with post-traumatic stress disorder and physical injuries.
He claimed that despite getting "no help" and feeling increasingly distressed, senior officers came to his door and tried to urge him to return to work.
"I couldn't believe it," the former policeman explained. "I was a danger to society and a danger to myself, so were they trying to put me back on the street with a gun? I don't know, but God forbid if that had happened."
The former officer, who left the force a short time later, said support for new recruits had not improved in the past 12 years.
"God help the young ones who have joined with health problems because I can see that nobody is trying to help," he added.
The former policeman was responding to comments on the programme by Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay, who said he heard from officers on a daily basis who were "at their wits' end" and who were not receiving enough support.
Mr Lindsay told how one officer had been waiting 19 weeks for a referral to get help with mental health issues. "That's unacceptable," he said. "That officer was left probably in a far worse distressed state by the time he got to speak to anybody."
Mr Lindsay also said that the number of days lost to stress-related illness had increased by 60% since 2013.
"If we look at last year's figures, there's over 37,000 days lost through stress-related illness in the PSNI," he added. "That shows you the extent of the problem, and it's not getting any better."
The revelations came after tweets by Chief Constable George Hamilton to an officer who raised issues about growing pressures, with the police chief telling him "dry your eyes" and stop "wallowing in self-pity".
The Chief Constable later apologised and said that "such important issues are not best dealt with in the 140 characters of a tweet".
But Mr Lindsay said Mr Hamilton had got the issue "badly wrong" and warned there was insufficient support available.
"It's an issue I hear about on a daily basis, he added. "It is commonplace. We have officers at their wits' end - their personal life and their family life falling in around them.
"What we are lacking is funding and direction to be able to fix that for them and to allow them to serve the community.
"Police officers in Northern Ireland are tremendously committed to serving the community, but they feel they're being let down in that that isn't being reciprocated with the funding to help them when they're in need."
He added that while the federation had set up a £1m fund to support officers, this was effectively police officers' own cash.
"There is some support but it's wholly inadequate," Mr Lindsay stressed.
"Sometimes, you feel like you're banging a drum and nobody's listening.
"We took the issue to the Chief Constable and he worked with us on some of the issues.
"We are using members' own money. That should not be the case. It's coming from nowhere else. We had a choice - do we sit there and keep shouting about inadequate funding when it quite clearly isn't coming, or do we take proactive action and try and fix the problem?"
If you are affected by any of the issues in this article, contact the Samaritans on 084 5790 9090, or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000