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An Garda Síochána Outlines Measures to Support Health and Wellbeing of Garda Personnel - 5/11/20

- Over 5,200 Garda personnel completed Health Needs Assessment Survey Report
- Survey finds majority of personnel report being in good physical health and say there is a strong sense of camaraderie
- Many believe there is a stigma attached to seeking mental and emotional support
- A number of supports already introduced with more planned for coming months including health and wellbeing app

An Garda Síochána has today outlined a range of measures taken and planned to continue to support the health and wellbeing of Garda personnel.

The measures are part of a first response to the response to the findings of a survey of more than 5,200 personnel on their physical and mental health.

They include recent enhancements to the independent 24/7 counselling service for Garda personnel and the launch next month of a health and wellbeing app.

In the last month, psychological supervision and supports have also been put in place for Garda personnel working in Cyber Crime, Protective Services, and Specialist Interviewing.
In addition, a formal relationship has been established with Oscar Kilo – the UK National Police Wellbeing Service.

An Garda Síochána commissioned an independent firm, Crowe, in July 2019 to establish the views of Garda personnel on a range of areas including the physical and mental health of individuals, workplace culture and demands, as well as uptake of, and views on, mental health and trauma support provided by the organisation.

Over 5,200 personnel across the organisation completed the survey between October and November 2019 as part of the ongoing work being undertaken by An Garda Síochána under the Government’s A Policing Service for our Future.

Key findings from the survey of Garda personnel:

• Average mental health rating: 6.8/10 (Gardaí 6.8, Garda staff 7.3)
• Average physical health rating: 6.6/10 (Gardaí 6.4, Garda staff 7.2)
• Over 50% of respondents occasionally experience trauma at work – (63% for Gardaí)
• 45% experience high or very high stress levels at work
• 70% of Garda personnel feel they can speak with a supervisor about something causing upset at work
• 26% of personnel have taken a work-related absence in the previous twelve months
• Over 70% of members of An Garda Síochána are aware of the organisation’s support services including peer support network, the 24/7 confidential helpline and counselling service
• Vast majority of those who have used these support services are happy with the services and would recommend them to a colleague (e.g. 73% satisfaction rate for peer support, 65% rate for employee assistance service, and 73% for 24/7 helpline)

Speaking today, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said, "We want to create a culture where everyone feels supported and can rely on our support services in their time of need. The responses contained in the survey will greatly assist us in that task.

"The results have sent a clear message around important issues and in particular mental health and trauma. One quote in particular captures the unique challenges faced in policing – ‘this is not a normal job with normal stresses’.

"It is crucial, therefore, that not only are the right supports in place and widely advertised, but that personnel feel empowered to avail of them. Notably respondents report perceptions of a stigma attached to seeking out mental health and emotional supports, and many believe that seeking help would have a detrimental impact on career progression.

"A key objective of our Health & Wellbeing Strategy is to directly challenge and overcome such stigma, and bring about the kind of cultural change where seeking help is seen for the strength that it is and not any kind of weakness.

"It is important to also highlight the many positives contained in the survey. The majority of our personnel report being in good physical health and point to a strong sense of camaraderie.

"Most of those who have availed of supports provided by An Garda Síochána rate them highly and would recommend them to a colleague.

"Ultimately, we want to create a more compassionate workplace rooted in fairness and equality.”

An Garda Síochána’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Oghenovo Oghuvbu said, "This very valuable feedback from over 5,000 colleagues is informing our forthcoming Health and Wellness Strategy and Implementation Plan.

"It is apparent from the findings of the Health Needs Assessment 2019 Report that the culture surrounding mental wellbeing needs to progress and evolve within the organisation.

"The appropriate and necessary strategic changes we are introducing have the potential to positively impact on the health and wellbeing of those in An Garda Síochána while simultaneously building a workplace culture that values mental health.”

"As part of our approach, we are placing a renewed focus on promoting use of key supports and in turn reducing the stigma around seeking help or support.

"It is hoped that the actions being undertaken as part of our plan will more strongly encourage all staff to express any stressors in their day-to-day work, and proactively look after their whole wellbeing.”