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Mind Matters: Elevating Mental Health Support for Police Officers

Officers from the Police Psychological Services Department and Police’s paracounsellor committee share more about the extensive psychological support services for police officers.
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Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police Tay Wee Li (left) and Ms Ho Hui Fen (right). PHOTO AND GRAPHIC: Natalie Ong

When a police officer required counselling services for more than 11 years due to mental health issues, it became one of the longest-lasting cases handled by the Police Psychological Services Department (PPSD). PPSD supported the officer throughout the journey to recovery, a testament to the dedication PPSD officers have towards improving the mental health of officers, no matter how challenging a case may be.

The 11-year case was managed by Ms Ho Hui Fen, Principal Psychologist, Police Psychological Services Department, Singapore Police Force (SPF), who has been a psychologist for almost 20 years. Common issues that officers seek help for are “trauma, personal issues and financial issues”, said Ms Ho. 

Officers have access to a comprehensive support system for any mental health concerns they may have. 

PPSD proactively and reactively supports the mental welfare of officers. PPSD identifies and integrates useful resources into officers’ compulsory training modules, such as resilient training programmes, which enhances officers’ ability to cope with adversities. Officers’ morale and well-being are monitored regularly through surveys and morale sensing exercises. These provide platforms for officers to voice out their concerns and focus on areas where support can be improved.

To enhance the accessibility of PPSD’s services, officers can use the 24/7 PPSD staff counselling helpline. PPSD also conducts in-person counselling services through self-referral and supervisors-referral.

Paracounsellors: An Integral Pillar of Support
PPSD psychologists also work closely with paracounsellors – SPF staff who volunteer to provide counselling support to their fellow colleagues. Paracounsellors are trained extensively in providing emotional support for officers.
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GRAPHIC: Natalie Ong

Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police (DAC) Tay Wee Li, Deputy Chairperson of the paracounsellor committee, SPF, shared how paracounsellors ensure officers receive the help that they require.

Through peer interactions during the course of their work, paracounsellors have opportunities to detect and determine whether their fellow officers may be undergoing psychological challenges. Some of these officers may be reluctant to seek help from PPSD, so paracounsellors step in to provide peer counselling.

DAC Tay said that these sessions are often conducted in an informal setting such as over a meal, to “build rapport with the officer, for him or her to trust the paracounsellor and share more about their concerns”.

When a case becomes too difficult or complex, the paracounsellors will hand the case over to PPSD psychologists for professional in-house counselling.

Overcoming The Stigma Of Seeking Help
Despite these measures, there may still be some perceived stigma surrounding help-seekers. 

As Ms Ho pointed out, this problem of stigmatisation is “heightened with police officers as they are portrayed to help others and have a more masculine image”. This may cause an officer who has sought help to be seemingly not up to par with the rigorous demands of being a police officer. Thus, some may be apprehensive about asking for psychological assistance.

PPSD and the paracounsellors have been fostering a safe and open environment for those wanting to reach out for psychological support. “Our counselling sessions are strictly private and confidential,” said Ms Ho. There is also an upcoming initiative to encourage officers to share their success stories with fellow officers “to convince them that seeking help is not a bad thing.”

Written by

Natalie Ong


5 January 2024

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