Police policy on turning away recruits taking anti-depressants stigmatises mental illnesses: advocates

New recruits with depression must be free of them for two years prior to joining, although the Police say there may be ...
FAIRFAX NZ

New recruits with depression must be free of them for two years prior to joining, although the Police say there may be exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

Police say new recruits on anti-depressants can't join the police force, a practice the Mental Health Foundation terms discriminatory and a top psychiatrist says promotes harmful myths.

Marty Fox, national manager of Wellness & Safety for police, confirmed the recruitment policy saying new recruits needed to be both medication and symptom free for a "period of two years before we will consider their medical suitability". He acknowledged this included anti-depressants.

"This is on entry so does not apply to existing staff."

Dr Mark Lawrence says the policy perpetuates the myth people with mental illness are violent.
SUPPLIED

Dr Mark Lawrence says the policy perpetuates the myth people with mental illness are violent.

Shaun Robinson, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said he wanted police to re-examine the policy.

READ MORE:
'NZ is too indifferent about depression'
Depression among Kiwi students a 'crisis' 
Dads are prone to postnatal depression: study 
How to tell if you're depressed or just feeling sad 


"This requirement is likely to deter anyone thinking of joining the police from asking for, and receiving medical help for, mental health issues out of fear it will jeopardise their career," Robinson said.

"'That's the way it's always been done' is not a good enough reason to continue contributing to the stigma that exists around mental illness."

Shaun Robinson, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, wants police to re-examine the policy.
SUPPLIED

Shaun Robinson, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, wants police to re-examine the policy.

Dr Mark Lawrence, chairman of Tu Te Akaaka Roa, the New Zealand body of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, said historic associations between mental illness and violence could be to blame for the policy, an association he said was unfair given that violent acts from people with mental health issues were "relatively uncommon".

"If you have someone that's in a stable condition on an SSRI [anti-depressant] and they want to go into the police force, then essentially what the police are saying is that 'well, for you to enter our club you need to stop your anti-depressant'," Lawrence said.

"It perpetuates the mythology that we need to be concerned and worried about people that have mental health concerns."

Fox said police would consider applicants who didn't meet medical requirements on a case-by-case basis.

Ad Feedback

A similar policy appears to be in place in the Queensland Police force with a requirement that recruits must show no signs of mental illness after being off medication for at least two years.

One person who applied to join the New Zealand Police force claimed to have presented police with letters of support from both a psychiatrist and a GP, but was told the rule was a blanket ban.

Lawrence was not aware of any clinical research that would support the two-year stand-down period, and said assessments at police college would "tease out those that aren't going to do well irrespective of whether they're on antidepressants or not".

"You've got a primary GP who knows the person a lot better, you've got a specialist that's given an opinion that they don't see any particular concern. I think there should be some flexibility in the system," Lawrence said.

"Having a blanket rule will discriminate against people."

Lawrence acknowledged there were restrictions on commercial pilots using anti-depressants but said there was no similar requirement for gun ownership or many other high-stress occupations.

"Before you can become a doctor, which is an important function and role, there's no policy that says you need to be off medication for two years."

Robinson said the police did "great work" supporting people experiencing mental distress.

"We would hope that they would be prioritising including people with lived experience into their workforce to ensure their work in this area continues to improve."

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Countdown to league world cup

New Zealand's Shaun Johnson celebrates victory at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup after scoring the winning points in ...

In under 100 days, an estimated 6000 rugby league fans will descend on New Zealand.

Baby's eye issues missed

Surgery to remove a cataract from an infant's eye was "performed outside of the optimal timeframe" after routine tests ...

DHB and doctor failed to perform crucial test on newborn later declared blind in one eye.

Poi dancing good for elderly

Poi, a traditional Maori dance, involves weights on the ends of cords being spun in circular patterns.

The Maori dance can help seniors improve their balance and memory, according to a new study.

Wakeboarder towed by seaplane

Brad Smeele, Brant Hales and Jesse Cassrels set new standards to raise awareness.

Wakeboarder Brad Smeele injured his spine three years ago. His friends are going to extremes to help raise awareness.

Wellington

Young designer's big break

Fashion designer Youhan Khosho, 20, with his Resene Fugitive garment to be showed on the Resene Designer Runway in three ...

Student Youhan Khosho has earned a spot at New Zealand's biggest fashion event.

Suicide case trial date 

Susan Dale Austen had supporters outside on the days she appeared in the District Court.

Hutt Valley woman charged with assisting a suicide may face trial early next year.

Slip on Vogeltown road

A land slip disrupted traffic in Balfour St, Vogeltown, on Tuesday morning.

Both lanes are closed and the number 21 bus is impacted as contractors work to clear Balfour St.

Cycle lanes a Kiwi-first

A proposed new contra-flow bike lane on Wellington's Cuba St will allow people to ride both ways along part of the ...

Proposed new lanes will allow Wellington's cyclists to ride against the flow of traffic.

Canterbury

Flood victims told 'stay away'

The Heathcote River at Clarendon Tce, Opawa, on Monday.

The water may have receded, but affected homeowners face a health risk from sewage.

More rain, snow likely

Snow at Tekapo

Heavy rain and snow are set to hit on Thursday when a new polar blast hits.

Ballantynes gears up for new build

Ballantynes was one of the first central city retailers to reopen after the February 2011 earthquake.

Department store to reopen some departments in new premises while it rebuilds.

Anger at Southshore flooding

Southshore's estuary frontage at the weekend.

Residents angry homes flooded in storm's tidal surge due to lack of protection, but council blames lack of forecast. 

Waikato

Gunpoint carjacking arrest

People were seen exiting a central Hamilton home with their hands up during the arrest on Monday afternoon.

Man arrested over the gunpoint carjacking of a Chevrolet Caprice in Hamilton.

Guard spooks raiders

The front of the Thames Noel Leeming store was damaged after being rammed by a stolen vehicle.

Security guard responded to first raid and spooked thieves as they attempted a second.

Dairy owners wait their turn

The owner of the Holland Superette in Fairfield, Hamilton, was struck in the head with a hammer after refusing to hand ...

Terrified shopkeeps play robbery roulette and with odds stacked against them.

Chiefs up against history

Liam Messam and the Chiefs are up against history as they try to stay alive in Super Rugby.

No team has travelled from South Africa to New Zealand, then won a playoff match since 1998.

Taranaki

Faull family success

Taranaki dairy farmer and hotelier Gavin Faull is among the latest NBR Rich List.

Gavin Faull is one of two Taranaki entries on the latest NBR Rich List.

A virtual remedy

Digital health deputy Janine Maruera photographs Makaiah Nui's tummy as she is held by cousin Tesha Whakatutu,  during ...

A combination of local gumption and modern technology is bringing health care to a town with no doctor.

'Moonshine' madness 

Drunk on home brew whisky or "moonshine" a South Taranaki man assaulted his partner and drove dangerously. (File Photo)

 A South Taranaki farmer was so drunk on moonshine he had little memory of assaulting his partner.

Something beginning with C

240717 News Photo. SIMON O'CONNOR/STUFF
Central School in New Plymouth has had the 'C' stolen from its front entrance. ...

Be on the lookout for a missing C. It belongs to Entral School, formerly known as Central School.

Manawatu

Fresh future for college

New Queen Elizabeth College principal Chris Moller was welcomed with a powhiri on Monday. He wore the school's korowai ...

Shifting from esteemed boarding school to smaller college is a meaningful challenge, a principal says.

Another gorge slip

A new slip has fallen on the already-closed Manawatu Gorge road.

The closed Manawatu Gorge road is blocked by a third slip that came down this weekend.

Vaping up in smoke

Jason Seath and Jessica Byron of Hawke's Bay Vapour demonstrate vaping. Seath says people are turning to it to quit smoking.

Vapers say mayor blowing hot air after he votes for vape-free city policy.

Last supper for church video

Bishop's Warden Steve Fowler outside the church building.

Earthquake prone Levin church has been part of the community since the 1890s.

Nelson

Recyclable cups end up in landfill

Smart Environmental manager Yuri Schokking with recycled plastic at the Richmond Resource Recovery Centre.

Almost all our disposable coffee cups are going nowhere near the recycling plant.

Coming back to life

Peter Sutton says he wholeheartedly endorses the AgeConnect project.

AgeConnect Nelson Tasman is launched to target loneliness, social isolation affecting older people.

Weekend crime spree

The door at the Milton Street Store in Nelson was replaced with a sheet of plywood after a ram-raid attack on the store ...

Another dairy raid caps a spate of crimes across Nelson on a busy weekend for police.

Cadets' voyage of discovery

The Nelson Sea Cadets with LTCOL Josh Wineera, New Zealand Defence Advisor to Fiji and LT Sam Wilson, Military Liaison ...

It was hardly smooth sailing, but Nelson's young sailors learned plenty about theimselves.

Marlborough

Guerrilla knitters yarn-bomb town

West End retailers Stephanie Thompson and Jacqui Harnett are behind Kaikoura's yarn-bombing project.

Many a good yarn has come out of quake-hit Kaikoura over the past few months, and that doesn't seem to be wrapping up anytime soon.

Picture perfect

Marlborough photographer Jessica Jones won four awards at the annual Iris Awards for professional photographers.

Professional photographer Jessica Jones impresses judges in one of New Zealand's most prestigious competitions.

Teen denies knifepoint robbery

Dylan Joseph Dredge admitted seven charges at the Blenheim District Court. (File photo)

He wasn't trying to rob the woman, he was just attacking her with a knife, court hears.

Knitting Bea has warm heart

Avid knitter Beatrice Dunn always has her knitting on hand and recently donated 40 hats to RSE workers.

Pensioner Beatrice Dunn knits to keep busy, but her hobby has helped keep singing seasonal workers nice and cosy.

South Canterbury

'Best snow base since 2010' gallery

A photo from Mt Hutt ski area's Facebook page shows groomers working in fresh snow.

The weekend's storm dumped huge amounts of snow on Canterbury ski fields.

'Lake' consumes farm

Farmer Geoff Wallace on his Hook Swamp Rd property, which is still inundated with water.

Rapidly rising water in flood-prone area left farmer with trailer load of dead calves.

$500k clean-up gallery video

Ashbury Mowers & Heating business in Washdyke had to get rid of chainsaws and line trimmers that had water damage. ...

Cleaning up the Timaru District aftermath storm will come with $500k price tag.

'Tough as teak' ex-AB dies

Tom Lister played eight tests as an All Black against, Australia, France, Wales, South Africa and the 1971 British and ...

South Canterbury's most-capped test All Black Tom Lister dies, aged 73.

Southland

Floodwaters: 'you sober up pretty quick'

Flooding on the Taieri Plains caught out several motorists over the weekend.

Slammed as "hypothermic drunks", one of the nine rescued in Otago floodwaters has revealed the terrifying, potentially deadly situation he was in.

Fur seal rescued video

The seal is believed to have travelled up the Waiau river.

Southland family steps in to help seal, risking a $250,000 fine as DOC tells them to "let nature take its course".

Natural burials now possible

Invercargill City Council parks and reserves manager Robin Pagan.

Those who wish to have a "natural burial" can now do so at Invercargill's Eastern Cemetery.

Regions flex their muscle on migration

'There's been some pretty direct feedback' – Bill English may tweak immigration proposal after outcry

OPINION: The provinces have exercised a bit of political clout as the election nears.

Ad Feedback