Police boss not backing down on antidepressant ban

Police boss Mike Bush not backing down on antidepressant ban
Mike Bush says wannabe-officers on anti-depressants should not apply, despite plea from Beehive.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush isn't backing down from banning wannabe recruits who are prescribed antidepressants. 

That's despite a plea from Health Minister Jonathan Coleman for him to rethink the move, which will lock dozens of students out of police college. 

"People can function perfectly well on antidepressant medication," says Dr Coleman. "Have another look at it, definitely." 

Cmmr Bush says the ban is about ensuring all new officers are of sound mental health, and wants those on mental health medication to give it up within two years in order to be accepted. 

"Policing is a very stressful job, so people have got to be really healthy and we have a real focus on maintaining the health and welfare of our people.

"We understand the pressures people live under and the requirement to get treatment for it, but what we do is ask for a stand-down period of two years before we accept them into the college". 

The number of Kiwis on antidepressant medication has grown over the last decade, now around one in nine adults, with rates around one in six for women. 

Prescription of antidepressants jumped 20 percent in the five years to 2013, and nearly half a million Kiwis are on the drug. 

"We require, on behalf of the public, our people to be physically fit and mentally healthy, because that's what the job requires, and that's what the public demand," says Cmmr Bush. 

He says the ban is perfectly legal and doesn't breach any human rights or discrimination laws.