Gardai Moan, of being Stressed out, not too Stressed, to Stitch somebody up?

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Gardaí need better help to cope with traumas of the job, officers warn Commissioner Drew Harris

 17th April 2022

The lack of a garda policy on how to help gardaí cope with tragic scenes and the aftermath of extreme violence is causing a “mental health crisis” in the force, mid-ranking gardaí have warned.

Sergeant Declan Higgins, based in Co Louth’s roads policing unit, told the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors’ (AGSI) annual conference of an urgent need for the Garda Commissioner to prioritise the creation of a critical incident stress management policy.

Speaking to this newspaper, Sgt Higgins said recent murders have highlighted the levels of violence gardaí must sometimes deal with in their working lives. The officer said colleagues must also on occasion deal with fatal car crashes, which can be traumatic.

He said welfare assistance is provided to officers when he has sought it, but it is up to garda managers to seek this help out.

“The issue is there is no policy, no integrated system garda manager can access. This is a major problem. We should not have to seek out help for ourselves or our staff, it should be immediately offered when certain situations arise,” he said.

“There is still a stigma in An Garda Síochána for going on sick leave over stress. It is still regarded as career suicide. At the moment, if any of my team display stress indicators, which they have, it is up to me to go looking for help.

“There needs to be a more proactive approach, because sometimes by the time someone gets the help they need it is too late and they are already struggling and have sometimes turned to things like alcohol to deal with work-related stress.”

Separately, incoming AGSI president Brendan Brogan called on Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to significantly increase custody suites across garda stations nationwide, as recommending by the Garda Inspectorate.

Northern Ireland has a far higher number of custody suites, which is better for the human rights of detainees and makes policework run smoother, Mr Brogan said.

“We are calling on the commissioner to ensure there are adequate numbers of custody suites in each garda division and to ensure there is regular training for the member in charge solely assigned to this role in order to provide protection to our members and to ensure the safety of our colleagues and detainees.”

Both motions were passed at the conference and will be presented to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris for consideration.

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