Cops shun psychiatric help - minister

2012-06-21 22:28

Pretoria - Police officers are shunning the psychiatric services provided by the government, often to their own detriment, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Thursday.

"In many instances they are not emotionally and psychologically equipped to handle those stressful situations which frequently lead to catastrophic impact on their mental wellness, with unfortunate outcomes," he said.

Mthethwa was speaking in Lynnwood, east of Pretoria, at the official opening of a block of offices for the SA Police Service Medical Scheme (Polmed).

"We have noted that, unfortunately, the uptake and utilisation of the available psychiatric benefits via the psychiatric disease risk management programme (DRM) is well below optimal levels," he said.

"We further note that the voluntary enrolment onto the DRM is not reaping the benefits you envisaged it would have, mostly due to the fact that members do not enrol onto the programme."

Mthethwa said a Polmed analysis indicated there were three specific psychiatric conditions probably originating from the stressful working environment of police officers.

"These conditions are depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.


"Based on the claims experience, we learnt that there are 10 636 members suffering from depression; 2 763 members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. What is further worrying is the number of attempted suicides by [SA Police Service] members."

Mthethwa said the low use of the psychiatric programmes arose from a perception among police officers that the service was inadequate.

"Whilst there have been some members who have utilised such programmes, sadly, we still have some myopic perceptions that going for counselling is considered 'sissy or weak'. We need to dispel such misconceptions because they are destroying and negatively affecting our members."

Mthethwa said there were 515 service providers (psychologists, social workers and chaplains) providing debriefing services to active police members.

"However, if one considers the fact that there are over 160 000 active SAPS members, the reality is that the available 515 providers are insufficient to reach all SAPS members that require help."

He said he had asked newly-appointed national police commissioner Riah Phiyega to increase these services.

Mthethwa said police management had embarked on a major drive to raise fitness levels among police officers.

"We do not need overweight police officers.

"Police management, in particular station commanders, must prioritise training and fitness by putting at police stations various intervention programmes aimed at addressing obesity and potential health problems."

  • Billy - 2012-06-21 23:31

    well if they dont attend, suspend them for a while without pay. or make it gratifying for them to go, with some type of reward system.

  • buwaz - 2012-06-22 00:21

    Govt can put best or excellent psychiatric help but as long they live under current low wages,they rather go drink beer

  • Tiaan Liebenberg - 2012-06-22 05:48

    That is because your so-called psychologists are controlled by their commanding officers - they are not allowed to help, only report on what is 'wrong', then to be re-deployed. They don't give a damn!!!!!!!!!

      catherinne.louw - 2012-06-22 11:30

      This is so true. The "debriefing" (IF it happens, once in 8 years!) consists of the following: "So are you okay? Do you need anything? Right then, we're done". What a farce. They point out depression, etc. but DO NOT pay for marriage counselling. Divorce rate in the SAPS is one of the highest, yet they don't give a hoot. The so called commanders also don't give a hoot, because, if they pitch for work, they're gone by mid afternoon.

  • brionyl.french - 2012-06-22 06:00

    ego is their problem

  • maseratifittipaldi - 2012-06-22 06:54

    SAPS Leadership should undergo psychiatric evaluation before being appointed. Come to think of it - the person doing the appointment should also be evaluated and graded.

  • leslie.rabie - 2012-06-22 07:14

    LIES LIES LIES ITS all LIES. there is No Psychiatric Help. I had to beg someone to help me with my Boyfriend who is in the SAPS who suffers from Bipolar!

      Tiaan Liebenberg - 2012-06-22 10:12

      Absolutely agree!!!!

  • whoowhoohoo - 2012-06-22 08:06

    How come this situation did not exist before 1994 ? Was it perhaps because people joined the police force because it was seen and treated as a calling to serve while since 1994 it has just become another "job" ? I served 30 years and experienced and saw the worst that life could offer and never needed, nor now need any crutch to get on with my life. Incidentally, the ANC destroyed my career ambitions in 1994 by denying me the right to improve my lot as a police officer. Ironically it was their loss by replacing me with a "comrade" who had served in Umkonte we Siswe.

  • shiko.phoks - 2012-08-14 01:44

    I went to social workers,psychologist, chaplains and psychiatrics,I collapsed after I applied for transfer 4 times. I was told to look for person to make a cross transfer with, after four months of hard work going from Police station to police station, stopping each and every police on the street giving them my phone numbers to help me to look for someone to cross with me. I finally found someone to cross with and we proceeded with paper work.I moved some of my staff to PTA while awaiting for an answer. On the 07/03/2012 I received a response that says I must look for another person because the person that I cross with, will have a negative impact on equity. I am strong but I couldn't take it and I collapsed. I was admitted in Akasia the wards were full of stressed saps members. No need for psychiatrics or psychologists because the management they don't take their report serious until a person commit suicide. They like it when they send condolences to family members and act like caring people.

      shiko.phoks - 2012-08-14 01:51

      I wrote this comment at 02:00 am because it's difficult to sleep while a person is depressed. I don't blame the saps I blame the individuals and especially Cape town

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