Fully implement Employee Health and Awareness programs to reduce suicide rate SAPS

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) noted with sadness the regrettable shooting of two individuals at a Durban court that took place yesterday, leading to two murders and a suicide by the alleged perpetrator.

It is understood that the perpetrator was a police officer who was at the time appearing in the courts on matters of divorce with his former wife.

While we abhor such actions of killing, the matter around suicides within and amongst our police officers is at an alarming level, and we are of the view that, among other urgent measures, the Employee Health and Awareness program, otherwise known as Employee Assistance Program programs within the SAPS should be utilised to help as many police officers as possible.

The nature of the services provided by the SAPS is such that police are faced or witness gruesome scenes on a daily basis, and this in many instances lead to conditions of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.

In 2014 alone, 10% of the SAPS employees were treated with depression, and between 2012 and 2015, 26% of all officers’ deaths were as a result of suicide; all these as a result of their working conditions.

Since recognising the need to launch the Employee Health and Wellness programs, then called Employee Assistance Programs, the SAPS has had good policies in this regard, but has dismally failed to implement them.

Most police officers do not utilise these services as they are of the view that their representatives (psychologists and priests) are not doing what they are supposed to do or do not understand their roles, lack confidentiality, are reactionary in approach, do not revisit stations for assessments and that these services are stigmatised in that there is fear some might not be promoted to upper ranks.

We urge the SAPS to speedily resolve and have these services fully functional, credible and in reducing post-traumatic stress disorder, especially among our younger police officers who continue to be the most affected, and this can be done by way of having scheduled police station visits, strict measures governing confidentiality and increasing Employee Health and Awareness so they become of service beyond affluent areas of our society.