Nearly 480 members of An Garda Síochána have been referred for psychiatric or psychological assessment or other mental health care over the past two years.
The constant toll of stress and anxiety on gardaí led to the loss of at least 11,176 working days in 2020 and 2021, according to official figures.
An Garda Síochána said that last year 47 members had been recorded as taking sickness absence due to a mental health issue. That was down around 9% on 2020 when 51 officers were not able to work at some stage due to a recorded mental health illness.
Gardaí said these figures are likely an underestimate of the extent of such issues as there is no specified category in their human resources systems for recording these illnesses.
The force said so-called “ordinary illness” on its system for logging absences included a categorisation for mental health and that sometimes – but not always – this would be recorded.
An information note said: “Each instance of sickness absence … would need to be manually assessed on the Sickness Absence Management System to ascertain if the illness relates to stress, anxiety, or depression.
“The following statistics have been compiled using the mental health illness subcategory. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that all absences due to stress, anxiety, or depression have been recorded under this [category].”
An Garda Síochána said that 5,236 days had been lost to mental health illness in 2021, significantly down on the 5,940 days of such absences recorded in 2020.
They said the number of officers assigned to “restricted duties or reduced hours” last year was 629 but that this included many other reasons aside from mental health issues.
Figures released under FOI also reveal that five serving members of An Garda Síochána were granted early retirement on mental health grounds in 2021. Another four also left the force for the same reason in 2020, according to the data.
The number of officers referred for psychiatric, psychological assessment or related primary care was 261 last year and 217 in 2020. There were also 46 members of An Garda Síochána referred for cognitive behavioural therapy to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues: 28 last year and 18 in 2020.
In an information note, gardaí said they have a duty of care to their members in the event of an occupational injury and that a range of services were available.
They said: “The primary service available is that of the Occupational Health Service whose role is to advise the Garda Commissioner on fitness for duty, and to protect, maintain, and promote the health of all garda employees.”