Police distress a sign of stress?

Every now and then, a report appears about a member of the police force losing it. Some unleash their fury and frustration on friends, co-workers or family.

Some take the drastic step of turning their weapons on themselves. Yesterday, IPS officer RK Sahay apparently attempted suicide by self-immolation. 

Ironically perhaps, just a day earlier, Commissioner of Police Satyapal Singh had given the police a pep talk of sorts, urging officers to treat juniors like family. Coming as a response due to the escalating tensions between senior and junior police personnel, the exhortation can also be read as an appeal to ‘keep calm’, especially with provocation from within as well as from belligerent members of the public.

Sahay’s extreme act is not without precedent. Police personnel of varying ranks have cracked under pressure over the years -- in the 10 years between 2002 and 2012, 168 officials have ended their lives, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

These are the people who enforce the law, maintain order and ensure that we can go about with our lives without disturbance. So what happens when they themselves are disturbed? Do the police have an avenue for redressing their grievances, or perhaps speak their mind when troubled?

The police themselves turn counsellors when aam janata have problems -- but there is no counterpart for the men and women in khaki.

Surely, given the incidence of apparent stress and trauma among the police force, there should be a helpdesk or a dedicated helpline, where police personnel can seek advice, or just feel better by talking to someone. A trained counsellor could be on hand, and considering that it is an age where everyone is online, it may also be helpful to have an email address that police personnel in distress can write to. 

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