Tuesday 17 September 2019

Front-line gardaí 'suffering from post-traumatic stress'

Delegates at the GRA conference in Wexford. Photo: Patrick Browne
Delegates at the GRA conference in Wexford. Photo: Patrick Browne
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin has promised to respond to a survey showing that one in six frontline gardaí may be suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder.

The shock finding was disclosed by a chartered psychologist who carried out a well-being survey for the Garda Representative Association.

Dr Finian Fallon also determined that a further 11pc of the force had what he called "sub-threshold" PTSD, which had similar impact on a sufferer but had not yet been fully diagnosed.

His findings are based on a survey in which more than 2,200 gardaí responded to his questionnaire. Overall, he said, 27pc may be "walking wounded" from trauma.

Dr Fallon, a chartered psychologist and psychotherapist and dean of business and psychology at City Colleges in Dublin, outlined his results at the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association in Co Wexford yesterday.

Commenting on the results, Commissioner Ó Cualáin said they had increased the capacity of the force's employee assistance services as well as introducing a 24-hour confidential phone line for help.

But he acknowledged that the current system was "not the finished article" and improvements could be made.

He said the welfare of gardaí had always been high on his agenda and management would examine the full findings when they were published and, if appropriate, they would initiate their own official survey.

Dr Fallon, meanwhile, said the results showed that for front-line association members, at least, the Garda was a "cauldron for adversity in relation to trauma and well-being".

Among the main well-being issues confronting gardaí were:

Frustration at the amount of paperwork involved with the job;

Not possessing the right equipment to do the job properly;

Believing that senior officers and managers did not appreciate the challenges they faced;

Witnessing nepotism in appointments to jobs and roles within the force;

Working unsocial hours that impacted on family and friends;

Insufficient training in the technical skills required;

Too many work demands to be effective in their role.

Association president Ciarán O'Neill said the findings made stark reading and provided fresh evidence of the mental health issues being suffered by their members on the ground, not least post-traumatic stress disorder.

He said Commissioner Ó Cualáin should order a full occupational health survey of all members and respond to the findings by putting the necessary protections in place.

He was supported by Louth delegate Lisa McEntee, who is stationed in Ardee but has also been based in Dublin and has more than 16 years' service in front-line policing.

She said she had been assaulted several times, had been verbally abused innumerable times as well as being hit and kicked.

Ms McEntee said those incidents were taking place on a daily basis to members of the force but there was an expectation that gardaí should pick themselves up and return to work.

Irish Independent

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