Help on hand for stressed out cops
WHILE former policeman Marlus van der Westhuizen?s triple murder case continues at the Cape High Court, an initiative to help police officers suffering from depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has re-emphasised the importance of officers seeking help.
Last week, Van der Westhuizen?s defence claimed that he was suffering from severe depression and .PTSD, and that this had rendered him Incapable of practising self~control. The state argued to the contrary saying that the murders had involved a number of complex actions and that he should be found guilty on all charges.
Frontline, a toil-free telephone service for police personnel, did not comment on the Van der Westhulzen trial, but said that the long-term effects of untreated depression, anxiety and P?FSD can often result in tragedies, including suicide and family murders.
?We have seen many police officers wffling to open up and speak about the trauma that they experience on a daily basis,? says Cassey Amoore, counselling services manager at the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) which runs the helpline.
During February thIs year~ the national helpline received 248 calls. During March, it received 342, and during April, 218, a decrease believed to be result of all the public holidays.
Amoore said the number of calls received sometimes also increased as a direct result of more police officers being aware of the service.
In some instances, it was family members of police personnel who phoned for assistance.
?The reality is that many of them face constant exposure to dangerous, high stress situations,? says Rosemary Giralt, product manager of neuropsychlatry at Pharma Dynamics, the company which conceived of Frontline. ?Thus the need arose for an anonymous service whereby they feel they will not be judged by their employer.? She says they are hoping to extend the service to metro police and paramedics as they too are ?the frontline out there that protects all of our lives every day?.