MENTAL HEALTH STATS
13 gardai took their own lives over past three years while 68 officers have been absent due to mental health every year
15 May 2020
THIRTEEN serving gardai have taken their own lives over the past three years, new official figures reveal.
At least 68 officers have had to take sickness absence every year due to mental health issues during the same period with the loss of more than 16,000 days of service.
And An Garda Síochána have admitted the absence figures may actually understate the level of stress, anxiety, and depression in the force as not all instances are likely to have been recorded.
The General Secretary of the Garda Representative Association, Pat Ennis, has called for more thorough recording of mental health absences and referrals in the force.
Ennis said: “The system for collating this data should be updated to reflect more accurately the circumstances of all absences including mental health, and injury on duty due to assaults on gardaí.”
AFRAID TO GET HELP
Mr Ennis told how they were aware of members not seeking absences for mental health issues out of fear it could “impact on their future career”.
“There had been a culture in An Garda Siochana whereby members would be very reluctant to report mental health issues,” he said.
“Even if they were involved in distressing situations such as gruesome scenes at murders and road accidents.
“Thankfully, that is changing but like the rest of society, regrettably admitting a mental health issue still carries a stigma for some people.”
Mr Ennis said An Garda Síochána were responding and that they hoped more accurate reporting would be addressed as part of the new Garda Wellbeing Programme.
The figures on suicide were disclosed under Freedom of Information by gardai and show there were five suicides recorded among serving members in 2019, four in 2018, and four the year before that.
Another fifteen gardaí were granted early retirement on the basis of “mental ill-health” according to the records.
Last year, a total of 216 gardaí were referred for psychiatric, psychological assessment, or related medical care. That was an increase from 185 in 2018.
In 2019, another 28 members of the force were referred for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a slight increase of three on the number that were given a CBT referral the year before.
Although the figures are likely incomplete, 80 gardaí were recorded as taking sickness absence because of a mental health issue last year.
In 2018, the figure was 58 and in 2017, it was 68. Some of the officers involved may have been counted in several different years if they had ongoing mental health issues from work.
The figures also show that 5,609 working days were taken or lost due to mental health illness last year.
This was an increase from 4,093 in 2018 but was down from the 6,414 days that were lost in 2017.
The records also show significant number of gardaí who were on restricted duties or reduced hours due to post-traumatic stress disorder, stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.
Figures for last year are not yet available but in 2018, a total of 546 members were at some stage on restricted duties or reduced hours because of psychological issues.
That figure was up from 466 in 2017, and 424 in 2016.
An Garda Síochána have conceded that the figures on absences from work due to mental health may not capture the entire problem.
They said their Sickness Absence Management System (SAMS) had no specific category for absences due to stress, anxiety, or depression. In some cases, this is recorded under Mental Health or in comments on a file.
They said: “The following statistics have been compiled using the Mental Health illness subcategory. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that all absences due to stress, anxiety or depression have been recorded under this sub-category.”
In a statement, the Garda Press Office said the welfare of staff was of “paramount importance”.
They said an extensive network of supports was available through the organisation from the frontline Peer Support Network to the full-time Garda Employee Assistance Service.