Published: 04 October 2022
Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether there are precautionary measures taken on a continual basis to assess the state of mental health and well-being of police and auxiliary police officers who bear arms in the course of their duties, particularly those who have front-facing duties with members of the public.
Dr Shahira Abdullah: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) from 2019 to date, how many police officers have sought help from their unit for mental health challenges; (b) what is the process for police officers to seek help (i) within their unit and (ii) from other resources within SPF; and (c) what initiatives are in place to destigmatise help-seeking given the fear of discrimination and unconscious biases relating to promotional prospects in a high-performing environment.
Dr Shahira Abdullah: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what support measures are given to police officers to access external counselling service providers to alleviate stigma from seeking internal counselling support; and (b) whether such support extends to other first responders including paramedics and military staff.
For Written Answer on 3 Oct:
Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) how many Home Team officers have passed away during active service in the past five years; (b) of these, how many are suicide cases; and (c) what is being done to ensure the mental health of our Home Team officers.
Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development
1. Mr Speaker, Sir, may I have your permission to answer Parliamentary Questions 13, 14 and 15 in today’s order paper?
2. Mr Speaker, my response will cover the matters raised in the questions by Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim, Dr Shahira Abdullah, and Mr Melvin Yong, who had asked a similar question yesterday, which we have given a written answer to.
3. Between Jan 2018 and Sept 2022, 74 uniformed officers in the Home Team passed away while in service. The majority of these deaths were due to illnesses or natural causes. Eight deaths were ruled as suicide. The cause of death for three others which had elements to suggest possible suicide, are pending coronial investigations.
4. With regards to mental health: Home Team officers are provided with avenues of support from the time they join the Home Team. Resilience and stress management training are provided to all new officers. We provide training on detection of personal distress, and this includes suicide prevention. Staff feedback is collected through regular staff engagement and pulse surveys, and the concerns raised include issues which officers may face in the workplace. Home Team supervisors are trained with the skills to identify and support officers who need help. This approach and culture have been built over many years.
5. Across the Home Team Departments, in-house psychological services are made available to officers, including first responders. Psychologists in the Home Team Departments attend to the mental health needs of the officers.
6. Peer support programmes, such as para-counsellors, have also been implemented in Home Team Departments to provide care and support. For the Singapore Police Force (SPF), there is also a 24/7 helpline managed in-house by our psychologists and SPF senior para-counsellors. We have another external agency-administered 24/7 helpline which is available to all Home Team officers.
7. The Home Team makes external counselling services available to all our officers, including frontline officers. The aim is to make it easier for them to access external help. This is confidential and anonymous, and we do not track who attends these services. The external counsellors will activate emergency services if they assess that there could be a threat of harm by the officers to themselves or to others.
8. The Police do not track the number of officers who have sought counselling or para-counselling assistance. Officers are not required to report their engagement of such assistance, as the confidentiality of help-seeking is important to encourage officers with problems to come forward. Officers who seek help are not specifically disadvantaged in their career because they had sought help. They are assessed on their on-the-job performance, and their promotion is based on merit and their potential to assume higher appointments.
9. SPF psychologists try and demystify the myths and stigma of help-seekers during their regular mental health outreach to all police officers. There is increased outreach every October, in line with World Mental Health Day, to build awareness of the importance of mental health and to encourage help-seeking.
10. Where the bearing of firearms is concerned: All Police officers and Auxiliary Police Officers (APOs) undergo security vetting before employment. Medical and psychological assessments are conducted as part of the recruitment exercise for the SPF and for most of the Auxiliary Police Forces (APFs).
11. Supervisors engage officers to check on their well-being. Officers are also encouraged to alert their supervisors if they think their peers may need help. If officers are assessed at any point to be unsuitable to carry firearms, they will not be issued with firearms and will be redeployed to other duties to allow them to settle down and recover from whatever strains they may be facing.
12. We will continue to strengthen the support for the mental health and well-being of officers in the Home Team and the APFs. But we’ll also require the help of family and friends of officers in the Home Team and the APFs as these family and friends may be in most frequent contact with the officers, and are best able to detect changes in moods and dispositions, and be most sensitive to events, to life events, happening to these officers.
13. Thank you.