As the Deputy will be aware, I consider the provision of appropriate mental health supports to be a matter of the highest importance. This was one of a number of key issues I discussed with the Garda Commissioner and his senior team when I met with them late last year. I have also discussed this important issue with the Garda Associations.
An Garda Síochána is committed to ensuring that members exposed to a traumatic incident receive the appropriate organisational response. An Garda Síochána is also committed to supporting victims and witnesses when a traumatic incident occurs. However it is aware that sometimes more support is needed than the organisation can offer. Therefore, when a crime is reported, An Garda Síochána will provide details of independent victim support organisations. These organisations help anyone affected by crime – not just victims and witnesses, but their friends, family and other people caught up in the aftermath.
Internally within an Garda Síochána, it is recognised that the continued wellbeing of each member is essential from a personal level and contributes to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the Organisation.
I can also inform the Deputy that there are twenty eight Victim Service Offices – one for each operational Garda Division. These Offices supplement victim support activity already being undertaken by investigating members of An Garda Síochána.
The Offices are staffed by dedicated, specially trained personnel operating to a Standard Operating Procedure. Their role is to keep victims informed of all significant developments associated with their case, as well as provide contact details for relevant support and counselling services.
A list of Victim Service Offices and contact details can be found at the following link.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Employee Assistance Service within An Garda Síochána provides a confidential professional support service to both serving and retired personnel of An Garda Síochána, students, reserves, their families and retired members of external police services and their immediate families resident in the State. It is a proactive response by the organisation to support personnel in managing and resolving personal difficulties at an early stage, which will assist in maintaining their health and wellbeing.
The service is available to help resolve work and personal issues, including mental health, which may be causing stress, worry or disruption to an individual’s life. The Service is under the remit of Human Resources and People Development, and managed by a Superintendent. There are sixteen full time staff attached to the unit with an additional two positions to be filled in the near future. Each Employee Assistance Officer has completed a Diploma in Employee Assistance and Social Support delivered by NUI Galway.
The Employee Assistance Service is supported by a Peer Supporter Network, which was established within An Garda Síochána in 1994 in an attempt to negate the potential harmful effects of traumatic incidents. Peer supporters are colleagues who have received appropriate training in helping members cope with the effect of a traumatic incident in the workplace. Very often in circumstances of traumatic incidents the immediate notification to and response from a peer supporter has had a huge impact in assisting colleagues in the aftermath of such occurrences. Peer Supporters are available in all Garda Districts and are activated following a traumatic incident.
All Employee Assistance Officers, and approximately 250 Peer supporters, are trained in Critical Incident Stress Management. This is an integrated planned policy designed to prevent or mitigate any adverse psychological reactions that may affect members who are exposed to a traumatic incident. This intervention is delivered by the Employee Assistance Service along with a mental health professional when required.
Following each traumatic incident, a peer supporter is activated. He or she will contact the member and offer support. In the event that the peer supporter deems it appropriate, they may refer the member to the Garda Employee Assistance Service. If the Garda Employee Assistance Officer believes that external professional assistance is required the member can be referred to the 24 hour, 365 day Helpline and Counselling Service and the Occupational Health Department.
Since 24 June 2016, a 24 hour 365 day Independent Helpline and Counselling Service is available to all staff within An Garda Síochána. This service is available for both work and personal difficulties. The service is provided by Inspire Wellbeing and is confidential, free and self-referral.
Under the most recent contract awarded to Inspire Wellbeing, a new 2 tier system is available which includes:
- Solution Focus Based Therapy for life and work events
- Trauma Focussed based Counselling, delivered by qualified trauma counsellors.