Dear Editor, At a time when we reflect on the deaths of 88 serving members of An Garda Síochana, that we find through FOI that 13 Gardaí have taken their own lives in the past three years.
That 68 members of the force were absent due to sickness caused by mental health and another 15 were granted retirement on the basis of mental health problems are worrying.
Those lives lost or careers ended can never be replaced and are not a true reflection on the numbers of Gardaí who, due to work pressures, attendance at distressing crime scenes, road fatalities or incidentally at suicides have not been properly assessed or monitored by the Garda Authorities.
This is a failure and wilful neglect of respective Governments and Commissioners to grasp this nettle and to have proper interventions in place to deal with members who are in distress.
I have personal experience of what is being written about and understand that without proper interventions such as counselling and outreach that the problems of mental health will not go away. All Gardaí should be trained up to spot changes in a Garda members personality and how it is affecting him/her at their place of work.
As a former member of An Garda Síochana, this help was not forthcoming to me or any of my colleagues in the 80s, 90s, 2000s or in decades past.
The attitude was to keep your head down and say nothing. If you declared that you had mental health problems your career would definitely take a tumble and you would be treated as some form of pariah or untouchable.
I am glad that Garda Wellbeing programme has been initiated and that it will see better and more positive outcomes for those members seeking help with mental health issues but not on a shoestring budget.
I hope that it is not just another paper exercise that ticks boxes, but that it is properly resourced with therapists and counsellors on call to deal with what was always hidden malaise and secret for far too long.
It’s OK not to be OK.
I say to all frontline workers, “Do not be afraid to express your feelings to those in authority and request that they take appropriate action to protect your mental health and wellbeing”.
Christy Galligan (retd.Gda.Sgt.)