SINGAPORE — Eight out of 74 uniformed officers' deaths between January 2018 and September this year were ruled as suicides, said Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam in a written response to a Parliamentary question on Monday (3 October).
Responding to queries from Radin Mas SMC Member of Parliament Melvin Yong, the minister wrote that besides the eight suicide deaths, the causes of death for three other officers have elements to suggest possible suicide, and are pending coronial investigations. The majority of the deaths were due to illnesses or natural causes.
Shanmugam's reply comes after a 29-year-old police officer died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound near Marina Bay Sands on 19 September.
Avenues of support for officers
Responding to Yong's question on what is being done to ensure the mental health of the Home Team officers, Shanmugam said that the officers have avenues of support from the moment they join the force.
"Resilience and stress management training are provided to all new officers. We provide training on detection of personal distress, and this includes suicide prevention," he wrote.
"Staff feedback is collected through regular staff engagement and pulse surveys, and the concerns raised include issues which officers may face in the workplace. Home Team supervisors are trained with the skills to identify and support officers who need help. This approach and culture have been built over several years."
Across the Home Team departments, there are in-house psychological services as well as peer support programmes available to provide care and support. For the Singapore Police Force (SPF), there are also 24/7 helplines: one is managed in-house by psychologists and SPF senior para-counsellors, while the other which is administered by external agency is confidential and anonymous.
Assessment for suitability to carry firearms
Shanmugam wrote in his reply that the police do not track the number of officers who have sought counselling or para-counselling assistance. Officers are also not required to report their engagement of such assistance, as the confidentiality of help-seeking is important to encourage those with problems to come forward.
"Where the bearing of firearms is concerned, all police officers and auxiliary police officers undergo security vetting before employment," he said.
"If officers are assessed at any point to be unsuitable to carry firearms, they will not be issued with firearms and will be redeployed to other duties to allow them to settle down and recover from whatever strains they may be facing."
If you have thoughts of suicide or are feeling distressed, you can call SOS' 24-hour hotline at 1800 221 4444. You can also email email@example.com.
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