At a time when the entire country was in the grip of a lockdown in May this year, Shankar (name changed), an Assistant Sub-Inspector in Mandya, aged around 45, was considering suicide while awaiting the results of the COVID-19 tests conducted on him and his family members.
While displaying unmistakable signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Mr. Shankar could not help worrying over contracting the virus during his routine activities and eventually becoming the cause for spreading it to his family members and others.
“He was so disturbed that he was even considering ending his life. He was relieved of the anxiety to a certain extent when the COVID-19 test reports showed negative, but he continued to be gripped by the obsessive thoughts of contracting the virus for more than a month. He finally managed to overcome disturbing anxiety through a series of counselling sessions carried out by well-being officers under the guidance of psychiatrists,” said Kishor M. Rao, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at JSS College in Mysuru, to whom the case was referred.
Mr. Shankar was counselled by Sandeep B.H., the well-being officer in Mandya district.
Mr. Sandeep is one of the 50 well-being officers appointed by the State government to provide counselling to police personnel across the State and help them cope with work pressure, occupational stress, marital issues and addictions, if any. The officers even make confidential referral to a psychiatrist if needed.
Each of the 30 district police and four Commissionerates have one such well-being officer, the remaining have been posted at different KSRP wings and in Bengaluru. Superintendent of Police, Mandya district, Parashurama K. told The Hindu that the State government introduced the concept of appointing well-being officers in 2018.
The appointment of such officers was following the suicides that rocked the Police Department in 2016. Applications were invited by candidates with MSc/MA in Psychology and preference was given to candidates with MPhil in Clinical Psychology for the posts. “They have been appointed on contract basis and it is renewed every year,” said Mr. Parashurama.
“During lockdown, the well-being officer spoke to all COVID-19 patients among the police personnel and their family members either through videoconference and telephone. It was very well helpful,” he said.
Out of the 1,584 police officials in Mandya district, 184 had tested positive for COVID-19 in addition to another 50 of their family members.
The police officials and their family members were telephonically guided on the measures they needed to take during quarantine, including practices to prevent mobile addiction, Mr. Sandeep said.
Before the onset of COVID-19, Mr. Parashuram said the well-being officers had held workshops and seminar from time to time to help personnel cope with mental stress arising out of their nature of work.