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Commentary: A police officer’s lot is not a happy one

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 19 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2252
  1. Simon Wessely, professor
  1. 1Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, London, UK
  1. simon.wessely{at}

Derek Summerfield’s time spent working as a psychiatrist in the occupational health department of London’s Metropolitan Police Service was frustrating for him, and for the police officers that he saw.1 Summerfield found little evidence of formal mental disorders in the officers; they perceived him as a barrier between themselves and the ill health retirement to which they felt entitled. Labels such as post-traumatic stress disorder or work stress were common, ill defined, and rarely led to satisfactory treatment. Instead, Summerfield felt that professional, occupational, and domestic issues were more relevant, but ones that both doctor and officer were powerless to address. Summerfield echoes the comments of two sociologists who link the medicalisation of the workplace and the epidemic of work stress: “Why do problems and antagonisms which previously led to the picket line and the political demonstration now so often lead to the general practitioner or the counsellor?”2

Summerfield is …

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