KUALA LUMPUR: The latest murder-suicide tragedy in Ledang, Johor, where a mentally-disturbed policeman shot dead his wife and father-in-law using his service revolver, before turning the gun on himself is an indication that mental stress of our security personnel is not one to be taken lightly.
The mental stress they undergo, be it due to personal or professional reasons, must be given attention to and addressed before they spiral out of control and lead to irrational actions.
A research conducted from 2007 through 2009 by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre revealed that 53.7% of the 453 personnel from six police stations in Kuala Lumpur experienced work-related stress.
With over half of the men in blue feeling the pressure, police personnel outranked those from six other organisations in the study with firefighters coming in at 47.3%, teachers (45.8%), nurses (42.3%) and doctors (40.7%).
The tragedy in Johor is not the first of its kind.
In another tragic incident that happened on April 26, 2012, Kons Mohamad Sobri Md Sidik, 22, was on duty at Istana Anak Bukit in Kedah when his colleague shot him eight times with an M-16 rifle.
He died by the guard post of the palace compound.
It is believed he had a misunderstanding with his colleague and the threshold of sanity was breached.
These incidents, though small in number, indicate that the mental stress faced by police personnel is a serious matter, and is one that warrants thorough and regular checks as well as preventive and recovery measures.
Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye recently recommended the establishment of a counselling unit at every police contingent headquarters to handle mental stress issues within the force.
Lee, who is also the Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council member, said counselling units work as a preliminary form of prevention by providing an outlet for personnel to air their grievances as well as receive advice.
He added that the religious and counselling division’s scope in each contingent, to tackle disciplinary issues among the staff, was too general and did not focus on issues related to mental health.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi agreed with the recommendation and also suggested that posts of counsellors or mental health specialists be created.
“I find the creation of the counselling unit necessary, what with the increasing workload which may contribute to the mental stress among the personnel,” he said.
Crime analyst Datuk Akhbar Satar suggested that police start from the basics by employing a more stringent recruitment process, including psychological or stress screening to identify vulnerabilities that could be hereditary.
He also recommended that the force conduct more courses on handling stress that are tailored towards handling the typical work stress of a policeman.
Akhbar called on police personnel to adopt a positive attitude towards counselling.
“Those who feel they have problems should be more open to counselling. Some may be reluctant or embarrassed to talk about their problems, but the pent-up stress may eventually burst and cause an untoward incident,” he said.
He attributed the stress suffered by policemen to three main causes: the profession, strict rules or policies and personal problems. — Bernama
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