Uganda Police Force (UPF) has unveiled a grand plan to defuse a threat of mental health challenges among officers, which has escalated cases of suicide.
This development comes as Uganda joins the rest of the world to mark the World Mental Health day. The five-year plan which involves psychological support through counselling will be rolled out first in the Kampala Metropolitan area (KMP)
This plan was revealed by the director of Police Health Services, Dr Moses Byaruhanga, who said that according to this grand plan, officers within the city and other areas which are in a 25 Km range from the central business district will be targeted before extending it to the countryside.
He revealed that Police has formulated a task force which has engaged in closed door conversations for close to two weeks on how this plan will be actualized.
“At the moment, we are going to start with the Kampala Metropolitan (KMP) area because that’s where we have the largest deployment of our personnel; about 13,000 to 16,000,” said Byaruhanga.
According to Dr. Byaruhanga, a separate task force team involving top level officers will be formulated. These will counsel other top officers, who will in turn deliver the message to junior officers a cross the country.
He also revealed that the force has only one certified psychiatrist and four clinical officers who transverse the country talking to police officers on issues to do with mental health.
He however pleaded with top most commanders to be friendly and pay attention to complaints brought to them by junior officers, in a bid to find long lasting solutions to their challenges, something he said will minimize chances of hopelessness and suicide.
“For all those who require some bit of counselling and training, we are going to bring them together. We shall take them to Kabalya Police Training School and give them a one-month training, and then later re-deploy them,” Dr Byaruhanga revealed.
Nonetheless, he revealed that as a team responsible for the health services for police officers, they have been alarmed by reports of a spike in suicide cases among these men in uniform due to disillusionment perpetuated by poor mental health.
Dr. Byaruhanga also revealed that discussions on the welfare of police officers which are conducted on a daily basis started about a month ago and they will go on for four months in the Kampala Metropolitan area before being extended to other parts of the country.
However, the cause of poor mental health characterized by disillusionment and hopelessness will not be tackled by counselling and discussions alone, but effectively addressing challenges affecting officers.
It should be noted that some of these officers live in extremely poor conditions, in dilapidated structures with no clean water and electricity supply amidst low pay, something which they have complained about for years.
This has contributed to hopelessness which has in turn led to a spike in suicide cases involving disgruntled police officers. A case in point is Alfred Obadia, 32, from the Very Important Persons Unit at Kireka Police Barracks who on October 1st shot himself with a hand pistol in their bedroom, according to his wife.
Statistics indicate that since January in a span of just nine months, eight officers belonging to UPF are said to have taken their own lives under mysterious circumstances.
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