Police: Service has options to help cops manage mental health

Gideon Dickson -
Gideon Dickson -

Police Service communications manager Joanne Archie says there are options available for officers who are struggling with their mental health.

Archie said the police's Social Work Unit and the Police Health Facility are tasked with the management of mental health and its effects on the physical, emotional, social, and holistic wellbeing of officers.

She explained that officers and their families visiting the Social Work Unit can access counsellors, social workers, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.

Current and retired police officers, including special reserve officers, can also seek care at the Police Health Facility.

Archie said this facility is staffed with doctors trained in Family Medicine which includes mental health.

She said the doctors, registered nurses and the emergency medical technicians at the facility manage clients “from recruit to retiree.”

Archie said a multi-disciplinary approach is taken when mental health issues were raised by the client or assessed by the medical professionals to ensure the holistic care of the officer.

She said, despite such services, the stigma around mental illness dissuades some officers from seeking help.

Archie said, however, the police service continued to sensitise officers that their health and well-being were of great importance.

Meanwhile, head of the TT Police Service Social and Welfare Association Gideon Dickson has denied reports that the WPC involved in Tuesday’s murder-suicide incident had applied for leave to deal with depression.

WPC Josette Marshall, 45, shot and killed her common-law husband acting corporal Dwight Skeete, 42, at their home in Chaguanas, before turning the gun on herself.

Media reports said Marshall had applied for leave to deal with depression and was denied.

Dickson said she applied last week for leave starting in November but it had nothing to do with depression.

Archie also confirmed that while Marshall had applied for leave, which was approved, no reason was stated.

Dickson said more than 14 days' leave was generally restricted, but the same did not apply for sick leave.

He added that sick leave included leave for physical or mental illness.

“Depending on the physician that you visit, they will write the necessary notes to inform your senior officers as to your ailment. So it covers both physical and psychological ailments.”

“Once you have the doctor’s medical certificate you will get the recommended leave,” he added.

Dickson said the Social Work Unit and the Victim and Witness Support Unit of the police were working together to support the families and officers affected by Tuesday’s shooting.

“They have been actively on the ground from yesterday (Tuesday)...They would have visited the homes of the deceased officers and relatives.”

He said the units were working to ensure that everyone who might have been affected by the incident was “exposed to some level of psychosocial services.

“They have also formed themselves into two teams and are engaging the secondary victims in terms of where the officers would have worked, and they are spanning out to anyone who might have been affected by the tragic news...to treat with the trauma and the stress associated with what has occurred.”

Skeete was assigned to the Court and Process Branch in Port of Spain and Marshall was assigned to the Police Administration Building, also in Port of Spain.

Asked about policies on fraternisation in the police service, Dickson said, “This is not the Defence Force.

“We have no fraternising policy, we are in the real world.”


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