LIVES AT RISK

Stress, depression mirror police and private security force

Traumatising and heart-breaking and with far-fetching and cross-cutting effects.

In Summary

• There is an upsurge in incidents involving both government uniformed and private security officers shooting and killing each other, family members and themselves in suicide or homicide methodical bizarre circumstances.

• Stress is not a mental health condition but tends to have an obvious trigger and can lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression if it persists over long periods without relief.

Mental health
Mental health
Image: STAR ILLUSTRATED

The main role of government gazetted security service providers is to prevent, control, detect and investigate crime. It is charged with protection of life and property.

There is an upsurge in incidents involving both government uniformed and private security officers shooting and killing each other, family members and themselves in suicide or homicide methodical bizarre circumstances.

It is traumatising and heart-breaking—with far-fetching and cross-cutting effects—to see those legally mandated to protect life and entrusted with firearms, tools of trade acting contrary.

Several factors have been attributed to the increased levels of stress and depression among the security officers. It stands worthwhile refreshing ourselves on the same in the spirit and effort of seeking to highlight, recommend, generate opinion and seek solutions towards a problem that touches on life—at either individual, institutional  or national  level—bearing in mind security officers originate from a family unit.

Stress and depression work-related challenges, among others, largely revolve around working conditions and aura, remunerations, housing, insurance, career stagnation, nepotism, tribalism, professional misconduct, welfare and love/marital-related crisis.

Stress is not a mental health condition but tends to have an obvious trigger. Like any minor or major illness, it can resolve as life events change. However, stress can lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression if it persists over long periods without relief.

Depression is a mental health condition that interferes with a person’s ability to carry out his or her daily functions. It’s characterised by feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in once enjoyable activities—either at work place or home.

Salary remuneration package remains a weighty and thorny matter; as these officers toil and brave under severe conditions day and night to render service in different sensitive assignments.

There exists a difference between living wage and minimum wage. Minimum wage is an amount set by law, whereas the living wage is determined by average costs of expenses incurred to live, including housing, medical, food and transport costs.

The minimum wage concept has failed. It has not kept pace with the rising cost of living, causing many security officers and other working cadres not exempted, to live below the poverty levels and with a craving desire to make ends meet directly or indirectly.

The housing policy for the police service was timely. It provides for the management of housing in the National Police Service with a focus on decent accommodation for police officers.

It seeks to ensure that all staff are adequately housed through direct provision of standard housing units and amenities or house allowances. It also provides a clear-cut criterion for the management and allocation of houses in the service.

“All members of the National Police Service are entitled to provision of a standard house within the area of jurisdiction or their duty station. In the absence of above they shall be provided with flat rate house allowances at an approved rate based on rank,” the policy reads.

“An officer shall be allocated a single house and shall not be required to share with any other officer. Officers not allocated police housing will be free to rent housing within their area of jurisdiction.” 

This has not been effective but is in limbo so far, with a majority of the police officers still residing in camps sharing tiny rooms separated only by curtains.

Such a housing environment poses threats to families lest the growing numbers of love triangle affairs, incest, teenage pregnancies and HIV-Aids infection within the force.

Corruption has been cited on the management and allocation of houses and allowances meant for that. While tackling the increase and enforcement of the “minimum wage”, legislators should be taking a hard look at the amount of money required to live, not simply exist; with a focus on typical family, standard, extended and individual living wage.

The public, and community in general, has yet to fully and freely accommodate the residing of police officers amongst them. There is fear and stigma associated with police officers brutality and extortion towards the civilians plainly witnessed from the pick of the Covid-19 and the government containment protocol measures, despite the cadre having been enlisted as key essential service providers.

A gap exists and the sustainability of the project needs to be re-evaluated to tame the growing negative perception against the armed forces. The government has a legitimate role in setting up laws, sectoral policies and enforcement of the same to the letter.

Reform drivers should professionally and diligently execute their mandate devoid of corruption, victimisation, intimidation and sexual advancement favours for promotions and career growth within the rank and file to ward off stress and depression catalysts. They must foster virtues and programmes that bring down social psychological depression trends.

Apart from physical, there is a need to reemphasise and allocate more resources for mental and emotional state training of the men and women in the security service, their general welfare, counselling, chaplaincy, conflict of interest and guidelines for engagement in trade and business as we seek to accommodate each other.

The author is the founder of Integrated Development Network