Police blues - SAPS depression rates a worry

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depressed police INLSA Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa and Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega at the opening of the new Polmed House near the Innovation Hub. Picture: Etienne Creux

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has appealed to the board of trustees of the SAPS medical scheme, Polmed, to assist officers suffering from stress and emotional trauma.

Mthethwa, who was speaking at the opening of the Polmed offices in Pretoria, said more than 10 636 SAPS members were suffering from depression and 2 763 members were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He added that the number of attempted suicides by officers was alarming.

“Statistics indicated that in 2010 there were 84 attempted suicides.

“However, we are encouraged as there has been a steady decline during 2011 and the beginning of 2012. It is therefore a wake-up call for all of us to take action in ensuring the downward management of these trends,” he said.

Mthethwa said the problem was that many of the officers did not use the Psychiatric Disease Risk Management programme.

“Sadly we still have some myopic perceptions that going for counselling is considered sissy or weak.

“We need to dispel such misconceptions because they are destroying and negatively affecting our members. We must all continuously encourage our members to utilise all the freely available employee assistance services,” said Mthethwa.

He admitted, however, that there wasn’t sufficient counselling staff. There were only 515 service providers - including psychologists, social workers and chaplains - but 160 000 active SAPS members.

“There are currently between 3 000 and 4 000 SAPS members that are receiving debriefing consultations via the Employee Health and Wellness Services within SAPS,” he said.

He said he had requested the newly appointed national police commissioner, General Riah Phiyega, to boost the counselling programme.

“We further urge the management of police to ensure that there are regular debriefing sessions for all members of SAPS. The advantages of such sessions will ensure that members with underlying psychological problems are identified sooner. They will be referred to a psychiatrist much quicker.”

He added that while South Africans had a right to criticise errant behaviour in the SAPS, the public should also commend officers who excelled in their duty. - Pretoria News

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