More support for mental well-being of police officers over the years, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper
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More support for mental well-being of police officers over the years

As a police officer, he had to tell a woman that her husband was dead.

The distressing news left the woman hysterical, but it also affected the officer psychologically, triggering some of his own past trauma.

The officer soon found that he was unable to break such news to the loved ones of people who died, which impacted his performance at work.

So he sought help from the Police Psychological Services Department (PPSD), which then provided the necessary counselling and psychological resources for him to get back on his feet.

Speaking to the media during an engagement session on Dec 19, principal psychologist Ms Ho Hui Fen, an assistant director at PPSD, said the officer was later able to overcome his difficulties and handle the breaking of such bad news.

“In safekeeping and protecting the nation, police officers operate in a demanding and high-performing environment,” she said. “The PPSD has been providing morale and psychological well-being support to officers for the past 30 years.”

The PPSD celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2023, having started out as the Police Psychology Unit in 1993.

It began as a small unit offering stress management training and counselling services, but has evolved over the years to develop support programmes, training and frameworks to build the resilience of officers.

It also has a counselling helpline to support officers who face problems in their personal lives or at work, including instances of workplace harassment and bullying.

Ms Ho said that all conversations are kept confidential unless there is a risk of harm, and so she was unable to share details about the cases handled by the PPSD. She only revealed that one of the longest cases she handled spanned more than 11 years.

The PPSD also helps train para-counsellors, volunteers from within the Singapore Police Force (SPF) who are professionally trained in basic counselling skills to provide a listening ear to their fellow colleagues when needed.

The para-counsellor roles they volunteer for are on top of their regular work.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Tay Wee Li, the deputy chairperson of the para-counsellor committee, said that para-counsellors are crucial in monitoring the mental well-being of officers.

She said: “Para-counsellors are essentially police officers for fellow officers. They provide peer support and counselling to fellow officers, and also render practical and psychological assistance during crisis or critical incidents to officers and their families.”

There are now more than 460 para-counsellors in the SPF, compared to about 20 years ago, when there were only just over 100.

DAC Tay said that there is a large pool of officers who have applied to become para-counsellors, and that while this was heartening, the committee and the PPSD have been selective. She said this was because they needed to ensure the officers are suitable for the volunteer role.

Officers who do apply to become para-counsellors have to go through at least four rounds of checks and selections, including a psychometric test administered by the PPSD, before they are professionally trained.

There had been significant public interest in the mental health and well-being of police officers after a 36-year-old police officer, Sergeant Uvaraja Gopal, was found dead at the foot of a block in Yishun in July 2023.

Before his death, Sgt Uvaraja had put up a post on Facebook alleging racial discrimination and other issues at work.

Following his death, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam had said the circumstances surrounding Sgt Uvaraja’s death would be thoroughly investigated.

The police also said it would be reviewing the allegations of workplace discrimination and referring their findings to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for an independent review.

policeMental HealthCounsellors/Psychologists