Seven gardaí took their own lives in the past year and a survey shows around one in six gardaí have exhibited signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
A study undertaken by Finian Fallon, Dean of Psychology at City Colleges in Dublin, showed in many cases that frontline gardaí are suffering mental health issues due to the stresses of the job.
Dr Fallon revealed the results of a ‘Well-being Survey’ he conducted on behalf of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) at their annual conference in Wexford yesterday.
He said the supports for gardaí suffering from PTSD were inadequate — gardaí have a handful of counsellors who are overworked and supposed to provide a 24/7 service. Dr Fallon said he had rung the service himself and had been told there was nobody available to deal with him.
He said he had discovered some of the counsellors were not trained to deal with PTSD, which he found shocking.
Dr Fallon said the rate of PTSD was comparable with other police forces, but many other European countries were far better at treating their officers.
The psychologist said he was shocked at the level of suicides and this was indicative of PTSD. He said it was very important that gardaí suffering from PTSD got quick access to professional help, especially as such stresses could result in them taking their own lives.
“We know from both the testimonies we have received from members and also from international studies that these issues have a huge impact on performance of gardaí,” Dr Fallon said.
“It also has an impact on their lives in terms of their health and also their interpersonal relationships, their marriages and things like that.”
Dr Fallon surveyed 2,204 members of the force, of which 68% were male and 32% female. They cited a number of reasons for stress, including feeling frustrated by the amount of paperwork involved with the job, not having the right equipment to do the job properly, and the belief that senior officers do not appreciate the daily challenges they face.
Several respondents said they had witnessed nepotism in appointments. Others said having to work unsocial hours impacted on family and friends and they always felt tired due to the hours they worked. Many claimed they had insufficient training on the technical skills required to do the job and their overall remuneration package was inadequate.
Feeling undervalued and having too many work demands to be effective in the role were also mentioned.
“Given the prevailing institutional context of the organisation, for frontline GRA members at least, it appears that An Garda Síochána is a cauldron for adversity in relation to trauma and wellbeing,” said Dr Fallon.
GRA president Ciarán O’Neill told acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin that independent clinical psychologist, Dr Eddie Murphy, has rated the Garda Welfare Service (counsellors) as five out of ten.
“This is just not good enough,” said Garda O’Neill. “Seven of our colleagues took their own lives in the past 12 months and it is all our responsibilities to ensure that there are no more.
“It’s time for us all to recognise that it’s OK not to be OK. Our welfare officers do not have the full supports they need to provide a proper service.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved