Over 2,700 Gardaí sought support from counsellors over nine-month period

Over 2,700 Gardaí sought support from counsellors over nine-month period

A Garda support service set up two-and-a-half years ago has seen a significant jump in officers seeking help.

The number of face-to-face meetings of officers with counsellors jumped significantly from 1,672 in March 2018 to 4,455 to December 16 of 2018.

Since, the official 24/7 Independent Counselling Service for Garda members, civilian staff and reserves was established on June 24, 2016, concerns dealt with centre around work and personal issues.

Figures released by the Garda Press Office show that, 1,040 phone-calls have been received, while 925 officers of all rank and other staff members have used the service.

There are currently 12,859 officers of all rank and file stationed across the country.

Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan established the free and confidential service, which aimed to provide counselling on a wide range of issues including critical incidents, trauma, financial, relationships, bereavement, stress, conflict, and health.

Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan
Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan

The service, which was delayed on several occasions due to tendering issues and the scandal hitting former suicide support service Console which had been due to provide assistance, was first recommended 16 years ago by the Gardaí’s sole voluntary psychologist Mark Reddy.

The current service gives employees immediate support from accredited counsellors over the phone and then, if needed, up to eight face-to-face counselling sessions.

These face-to-face sessions take place in a location within one hour of the employee’s home or place of work.

The Independent Counselling Service is delivered by EAP Consultants/Carecall, which has specialist knowledge of working with policing and security personnel having worked with the Police Service Northern Ireland, Defence Forces, the Prisons Service, and the Probation Board.

A Garda spokesperson said: "It is anticipated that this (service) will continue to be made available to all staff of An Garda Síochána for the foreseeable future".

The service is financed through public funding.

Commenting on the rise in face-to-face intervention by officers, Mark Reddy, a leading psychologist and psychotherapist who runs the independent support website, www.gardasupport.ie, which also supports officers said: “The 24hr service was my recommendation from 2002 but was never meant to act alone.

The research then and now show a massive issue in welfare, in trust in the service and a breakdown of any look at the issues.

"The regeneration plan is insufficient, welfare is a serious issue that if not addressed will impact in any change to the service.

“Welfare is not just mental health which all associations believe it is, welfare is about finding solutions to problems to aid in resolving issues before they become serious issues.

“Seeing welfare as just mental health issues is narrow minded and shortsighted.

“Welfare in the Gardaí starts with listening and acknowledging the issues, assuring support, addressing areas that cause upset, advising in proactive processes to ensure members are better able to manage the work and therefore are better for us as the public.

“You can have the best equipment, manpower etc but without proper welfare and mental health support it will be wasted.”

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