The Silent Epidemic of Police Suicides in Kerala

The terrible reality of police suicides in Kerala on the rise—a tragic consequence of overwhelming workloads and crippling mental anguish—is unseen but obvious.

The Disturbing Reality

According to reports, what’s transpiring is a devastating story: Every year, more than 30 police officers, the guardians of law and order, commit suicide in the state of Kerala. These officers, who don the uniform to safeguard citizens’ lives and property, have been suffering from an endless workload, caustic rebukes from their superiors, political pressures, and the painful helplessness to find time for their own families.

The figures are terrifying, and the facts are bleak. The State Intelligence Department has brought into light the worrying pattern in which roughly 30 police officers in Kerala commit suicide each year due to the burden of work-related stress and mental strain. Furthermore, due to these ongoing issues, an additional 100 police officers chose to retire early during the same time period. The urgency of the situation caused high-ranking police officers to issue directions to District Police Chiefs and are tasked with gathering precise statistics in order to comprehend this alarming situation fully.

According to OnManorama, in the past nine years, 78 brave cops succumbed as a result of the intolerable weight of their responsibilities, leaving their families devastated and the police force in great despair. Apart from the terrible loss of life, almost 4,000 cops have been forced to seek refuge at the Police Counseling Center, the only sanctuary they have to deal with the debilitating mental stress that pervades their lives.

What is even more concerning is the cold reality that many police stations in Kerala function with obvious shortcomings – the most basic amenities, like restrooms and toilet facilities, are a luxury that many officers do not have. Officers tasked with safeguarding citizens are frequently forced to endure long shifts ranging from 12 to 18 hours in these deplorable conditions that take an incalculable toll on their mental health.

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However, the injustices do not stop there. It is upsetting to learn that at least ten cops in each station have to perform personal favours and tasks for their superiors. This adds an additional degree of emotional and psychological stress to already overworked officers who are trying to maintain the delicate balance between their duty and their own lives. The working conditions of these officers are awful. Many stations struggle to produce five copies of First Information Reports (FIRs) in court, which is a basic need for law enforcement. Officers are required to obtain their own breathalyzers for alcohol testing, which is an unreasonable expectation given the resources available.

The theoretically separate boundary between law enforcement and investigative duties is frequently violated due to a severe scarcity of personnel, forcing many stations to shoulder both functions. This imbalance increases the workload on each officer, causing them to struggle to complete the numerous duties allocated to them.

Deafening Silence around the woes

But the pressing question is: Why has the Home Ministry, which is responsible for the welfare of its officers, remained deafeningly mute in the face of this mounting crisis? So far, reactions have been minimal, with vague circulars recommending awareness workshops and yoga training but no distribution of necessary funds.

The recent suicide of a senior civil police officer, MP Sudheesh of Kuttyadi station, stresses the urgency of this crisis. Kerala has seen the unfortunate loss of three heroic officers this month. It is no longer enough just to counsel these officers; the real issue is addressing the core reasons for their suffering.

Taking steps towards change

Efforts have also been made to reduce the pressure on police personnel in the middle of this crisis. A unique training program has been implemented to assist them in dealing with the enormous stress they are experiencing. For this reason, a separate training program has been developed by the DGP that has issued an order requiring people suffering from mental conflicts to seek treatment at the State Armed Police (SAP) facility in Thiruvananthapuram, with the counselling days counting as part of their duties.

Despite efforts to construct counselling clinics in all districts, along with introducing a new training module, has also stumbled upon hurdles. Furthermore, instructions to utilize yoga as a stress-relief activity have proven ineffectual. Officers who are already under enormous pressure to fulfil their tasks efficiently are burdened with additional responsibilities, such as engaging in yoga programs, further exacerbating their daily challenges.

The crux of the problem is an inadequate number of officers and an excessive burden placed on police personnel. While their formal duty hours are eight hours, many find themselves working for extended periods of time. The DGP’s advice to give policemen with mental health difficulties lower duty was not effectively executed as well. There have been reports of cops becoming disoriented as a result of continuous, extended duty hours. 

Furthermore, the workload is skewed, with politically powerful individuals obtaining fewer assignments while others are faced with greater workloads. Recommendations to reorganize duty assignments scientifically have likewise gone unheeded.

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Call for an actual meaningful change

The authorities must address fundamental concerns, such as a lack of personnel in police stations, harsh working hours, a lack of basic amenities, and the enormous constraints placed on these officers. If we expect to save the lives of people who have dedicated their lives to protecting and serving, the system must be reevaluated and restructured.

The time for significant change is here for Kerala’s police personnel, and it is a call that cannot be ignored. The pursuit of justice should never come at the expense of the justice-defenders themselves. It is critical that these brave men and women who make such great sacrifices to protect us have the support, resources, and respite they so rightfully deserve.

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