My reasons for going into counselling are very close to my heart. Ours is a job that exposes us daily to human suffering and human depravity. It is intense, demanding, gruesome and exhausting. There’s never enough of anything – not enough time, not enough personnel, not enough resources. We are stretched beyond our capacity and even when you think you can’t stretch any further, more is demanded of you and you stretch some more.
Added to the occupational hazard of being a police officer are normal human problems – difficult relationships, financial struggles, health scares, challenging parenting just to name a few. Our jobs make everything more difficult – a struggling marriage is dealt its final blow by frequent transfers, financial strain is made worse by the modest salary, the demanding nature of the job comes with its own health challenges.
As can be expected, many of my colleagues have no idea how to deal with the unique challenges of being an officer. The reality of the job is far from the dreams they had when enlisting. Many lack crucial support and understanding from those close to them. This alienates an officer who was already weighed down by the demands of a job that more often than not requires extreme sacrifice.
Many, lacking self-awareness, cope with the stress and trauma in unhealthy ways. Ways which further compound their problems. Helping my colleagues cope in ways that are healthy, helping them find healing, restoring their relationships, building their resilience, are some of the reasons why I decided to become a counsellor.
I dream of the day when every police station will have a wellness room where officers can come in for psychosocial support. A room where they can unburden themselves and find healing. I dream of the day when a counsellor’s role at the station will be so well defined and appreciated that my instructions will be listened and adhered to. That I will be able to say, “Don’t arm that officer,” and he isn’t armed for his own sake and that of others. I long for the day when there shall be strong structures in place to create supportive systems for the officers. I believe that day will soon come.