Health problems apart, they have little time for family

“My father comes home very late. He never attends school-day functions or parent-teacher meetings. There has hardly been a weekend when he took us out…” This is how children of police personnel responded at a family counselling session, organised by the Madurai district police recently.

Many children complained that their parents working in the Police department were stressed out most of the time and it had a telling impact on their personal esteem, health and relationships. The session was part of a ‘personal effectiveness programme’ initiated by M.S Chellamuthu Trust and Research Foundation, a NGO promoting mental health, in October last year. Hundreds of police personnel and their family members went through two stages of counselling.

Weeks later, Madurai Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan introduced a few measures aimed at bridging certain gaps in the family. For instance, instructions were given to grant leave to any parent seeking to attend school-day function or parent-teacher meeting. All women police were permitted to be present at the roll call at 8 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. every day so that they could spend the morning hour with school-going children.

“We are organising weekend excursions for the children of police personnel. It is more an education-cum-entertainment outing…last week children were accompanied by an ecologist to Alagarkoil to understand the various aspects of bird watching,” Mr. Balakrishnan said.

According to Dr. C. Ramasubramanian, a renowned psychiatrist and founder of the foundation, policing was a psychologically stressful in a work environment filled with ambiguity and dangers. Studies showed that police work was a “high risk lifestyle” which led to attitudinal/behavioural, intimacy and relationship problems.

“The negative portrayal of the police in the media distances them from the public for whom they tirelessly work…work pressures put them at high risk for hypertension, insomnia, increased levels of destructive stress hormones, heart problems, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicides,” he said.

Referring to the recent incidents where three Sub-Inspectors of Police committed suicide in Madurai, Dr. Ramasubramanian said the problems of police personnel often crept into their families. “The objective of the programme is to help police personnel and their family members develop necessary psycho-social skills to manage their life better. We want to enrich their capacity to cope with stress and understand protective factors in their day-to-day life.”

K.S.P. Janardhan Babu, foundation’s Assistant Director said at least 56 per cent of the police personnel, below the rank of sub-Inspector, who participated in the exercise suffered emotional disturbance. While 46 per cent of them had disorders like insomnia, hypertension or diabetes, 53 per cent experienced high level of stress.

The foundation has written to the Director-General of Police offering to extend the ‘personal effectiveness programme’ to the south zone of the Tamil Nadu police that includes two police commissionerates and eight districts.