Kerala cops grapple with stress: 6,000 seek mental health support from HATS in last 7 years

Work-related stress of personnel came to the fore after about 88 cops died by suicide in the last 5 years
Representative image
Representative image

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Indicating that work-related stress combined with personal maladies are driving the cops to the cliff edge, about 6,000 people -- police personnel and their family members combined -- have underwent psychological counselling at the HATS (Help and Assistance to Tackle Stress) unit set up by the police department to address stress factor among men in its rank, since its inception in 2017. The work-related stress experienced by the police personnel has come to fore after about 88 cops died by suicide in the last five years.

Representative image
Kerala cop suicide rate stays high; support group takes fight to mental trauma

Police sources said predominantly male members of the force and their relatives approached the HATS seeking to address their issues, ranging from personal woes to alcoholism, which were largely ignited or worsened by work-related stress.

Sources said women cops have also started availing HATS service, but majority of the seekers were men, aged between 30 and 45. “The cops who are married are the biggest victims of stress factor. Once they cross 30 years, their family responsibilities increase. The rigours of their professional lives and personal matters break down many. We are tending to them in offline as well as online mode,” sources said.

Mental health support through HATS programnme

The HATS is a centralised unit working out of Special Armed Police Camp at Peroorkada and has on board a male psychologist and a female counsellor. Once a cop is assessed, he is given counselling and sent back to his unit. The HATS staff personally monitor the condition of the cop and the follow-up treatment. In cases where medicines are required, they are sent to hospitals concerned, where services of psychiatrists are available.

Sources said the work-related stress is the major factor that complicates matter. Due to the nature of their job, the cops in normal conditions have to work for 12 hours straight. In cases of emergency, the work timing will increase further.

“Cops who had spent hours on the field in the previous days might be planning to take a leave or seek permission to take a few hours off on a particular day for some personal tasks. And then something comes up and they have to be back at work. When this repeatedly happens, domestic discord could set in their lives. And to tide over it, some of them take refuge in alcohol and that worsens the situation,” said sources privy to the working of the unit.

A senior police officer said the department is very much concerned about the mental wellbeing of its men and is planning to augment the functioning of HATS cell. “We are working on how to enhance the functioning of the cell and make it easily accessible to cops across the state. We are also making use of the manpower we have in digital de-addiction centres located in six cities in the state, to provide psychological support to the cops,” the officer added.

In most of the cases, apart from the cops, their family members too are given counselling. “The family members need to know the nature of the job of a policeman. It’s not a 10 to 5 job and comes up with a lot of challenges. A policeman might be returning home after working without any rest for hours. He needs to be handled properly by the family. If the family can understand that a lot of issues will be resolved,” the sources said.

Though getting leave is an ardent task, sources said, even those who are sanctioned leave have to remain on their toes as they could be summoned any time.

In the case of Station House Officers and writers, there are no substitutes. So even if they go on leave, they have to remain alert and fulfil their responsibilities remotely. That’s a mentally taxing thing and at times result in acrimony among family members.

In the case of women cops, it’s mostly working conditions and the family matters that bother them.

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The New Indian Express