EXPERT COMMENT

CHITAYI MURABULA: Why NPS must engage psychiatrists for mental health of police

Police are required to handle stress and trauma issues responsibly. But this is not always possible.

In Summary

• They are usually the first to be called upon after accidents, they remove bodies and take them to mortuaries.

• Some members of the Kenya Psychiatric Association have been moving around the country to support the police.  Such initiatives need to be scaled up.

Dr Chitayi Murambula is the president of Kenya Psychiatric Association (KPA) .
Dr Chitayi Murambula is the president of Kenya Psychiatric Association (KPA) .

The discussion around mental health among members of our security agencies is not new.

We have had several incidents that can be attributed to the deteriorating state of mental health. They include suicide, homicide and break up of relations, among others.

What we need is a framework on mental health for the police and other members of the disciplined forces.

They need regular mental health services and psychosocial support because their work exposes them to trauma.

They are usually the ones called out to scenes of murder and serious assault. Being witness to these horrific circumstances is incredibly stressful and can at times lead to depression and disillusionment.

They are usually the first to be called upon after accidents, they remove bodies and take them to mortuaries.

Witnessing violent acts can be intense and overwhelming. The mental picture will remain with the officer sometimes accompanied by flashbacks, and nightmares.

The police are expected to maintain law and order in very difficult situations besides putting their lives at risk as soon as they leave home every day.

Yet with this heavy responsibility, the police are required to handle stress and trauma issues responsibly.

But this is not always possible. Some deteriorate into destructive behaviour such as drug and alcohol abuse, reckless sexual relations, irritability and vulnerability to suicide.

There is need for a framework to train and sensitise all police officers about trauma healing and psychological well-being.

 The plan is to give officers tools to recognise trauma in themselves, and colleagues for prevention and assisting.

Somebody’s mental health is deemed to be good, if one is able to cope with stresses and can contribute to the community.

This framework is currently lacking and untreated disorders are manifesting In different ways.

I say this without reference to the current incident in Kabete because it is still under investigation.

Some members of the Kenya Psychiatric Association have been working on this and moving around the country to support the police. Such initiatives need to be scaled up.

There are gaps because they can only reach a few officers. The National Police Service also does not have any professional psychiatrist employed by them as far as I know.

Mental health must not be stigmatised as it is a common phenomenon and affects persons from all walks of life and age.

Dr Chitayi Murambula is the president of the Kenya Psychiatric Association (KPA).