BENGALURU : A team of psychologists in NIMHANS is trying to help namma ooru police better cope with psychological trauma or secondary trauma, which they tend to face after every case they handle. Department of Clinical Psychology is on its way to bring out a manual, educating personnels, especially traffic police to handle the trauma.
“There are many times when police think it is their job to face traumatic situations. But many do not realise that it brings in tremendous trauma and they need to take help from mental health professionals to handle it,” said Dr L N Suman, Professor and Head, Department of Clinical Psychology, NIMHANS.
A senior police officer said, “The move is need of the hour. Traffic police are worst-hit. They witness broken hands, legs and heads separated from the body.”
He explained that many times, the police officers who get to see the victims or deceased in such situations are ‘expected’ to know how to handle the cases. “From lifting of the bodies to breaking the news to the family and addressing the survivor’s needs, everything is the police officer’s job. It is not easy,” he said.
Doctors claim that secondary trauma can sometimes be contagious too. “Unknowingly, these victims of secondary trauma pass on the stress and traumatic anxieties to family members. One cannot cut off from their professional world just like that. Nurses, police, doctors, psychologists are worst hit and they need to be counselled,” added Dr Suman.
A 58-year-old senior head constable told CE, “Policing is a complex profession. Which other job requires you to be ready to attack someone and then save the person you just tried to kill?” he said.
According to counsellors, many police officers have symptoms of psychological trauma but do not meet the standards for full diagnosis as they are rarely identified.
“An officer with trauma cannot think clearly. He could become hyper vigilant, may not sleep well due to nightmares, is angry and constantly triggered by reminders of the event, etc,” explained Dr Ashwini A, a clinical psychologist.She explained that many of them even self-medicate or even avoid talking about the trauma or stress as they feel it could make them known as ‘weak-hearted’.
However, the biggest challenge, according to Dr Suman, is that it is difficult to bring the entire police department to get trained. “It is very important to know the tactics to handle the trauma, but it is tough to bring in all of them together. The department struggles to even assemble 30 officers in one room,” she said.
Hence, the department of clinical psychology at NIMHANS, which is one of the first of its kind in the country, has decided to come out with a brochure with a list of instructions to the policemen. “This is definitely going to be an educative and easy-to-access information for them. It will be printed in Kannada and English and will help them know what to do when,” explained Dr Suman.A senior police officer said, “We really need this kind of brochure and would definitely circulate it to all the police personnel, including traffic police and constables. We will wait for the brochure.”