A shake-up of police rules means people taking antidepressant medication could now be allowed on to the force.

Until now, people wanting to join the police have faced a mandatory two-year wait if they are on, or have been on, antidepressant medication.

In practice, those taking the medication usually haven't been allowed to become police officers.

That restriction is now being lifted and replaced by a case-by-case assessment.

Advertisement

Applicants would still need to tell police recruiters that they are taking prescribed medication, show their medical history, and get a report from a registered clinical psychologist.

Police deputy chief executive people Kaye Ryan said the medical reports were to help recruiters to make the right decision based on a person's medical history.

"Police made the decision to lift the two-year stand-down period after feedback from applicants and the public," Ryan said.

"Police take the mental well-being of officers extremely seriously and put significant effort into ensuring the well-being of staff.

"The nature of police work means officers can come across incredibly distressing and challenging situations, which might trigger mental distress.

"Police support those staff who might be suffering and have a number of measures in place, such as welfare officers, an Employee Assistance Programme and trauma referral following significant events."

Before changing the policy, police commissioned a report on the issue from the University of Auckland.

It was carried out by Professor of Psychiatry Robert Kydd, and peer reviewed by other psychological medicine specialists.

Advertisement

Ryan said the result showed them that someone "well maintained" on medication would likely make better judgments than if they had an untreated condition.

The policy banning recruits on antidepressants has long been controversial.

Then-Health Minister Jonathan Coleman called for police to "have a look at" the policy in April of this year.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson also criticised the policy around the same time, calling it "simple-minded and unacceptable".

He told media it contributed to stigma around mental illness, and would likely stop anyone who wanted to join the police from asking for, and receiving, medical help.