CORPORAL Ian Hamilton who committed suicide yesterday, was in need of counselling...like many others among the rank and file of the police service, ASP Michael Seales said.
The president of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association said there is a high number of police officers on active duty who are masking serious mental health issues and are in urgent need of mental and emotional help.
While he did not give an exact figure, Seales said the number was “troubling for an organisation of more than 7,000 people”.
“We have people who are in rehabilitation because they have drug problems. We have officers who have suffered from domestic abuse and some who are perpetrators of domestic abuse. These are real issues for the association and we are aware of them.
"A lot of people go around masking some of the hurt and trauma they feel but it is real for the association. I think there is a great expectation by the association for the new commissioner because he would have inherited a broken system that was not only dysfunctional but was operating in silo. So he has to make sure he has a synergy that brings all parties together in order to treat with most of these mental health issues,” Seales said.
Seales claimed there is no employee assistance programme for the police service. He noted such a programme is currently being put together but when it comes on stream, it will be too late for officers such as Cpl Hamilton.
In the interim, police officers have peer counsellors who have been trained to work in divisions and branches of the service to assist with mental help issues, but according to Seales, most officers don’t even know who these peer counsellors are.
Seales said there are also social workers who work closely with police officers with mental health issues, but the major challenge for the social workers is they do not have resources to help the officers in a proper manner. In many cases these counsellors may not be able to assist the police officers and would have to determine whether or not they would need psychiatric help.
These police officers are still better off than the Special Reserve Police, who, according to Seales have no access to even the limited counselling that is being given to the police. "They (Special Reserve Police officers) have major issues where they have identifiable people with mental health issues and challenges, but no access to treatment," Seales said.
Seales advised all police officers with emotional and mental problems to seek out their branch representative, who will start the process to pair them with a counsellor, and more importantly, not to feel ashamed if they believe they are in need of help.