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Literacy is a luxury that many of us take for granted. That is why SADAG created SPEAKING BOOKS and revolutionized the way healthcare information is delivered to low literacy communities.

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Thin blue line finds refuge from daily horrors of the job

Anonymous counselling service offers much-needed support for stressed-out cops, says TANYA FARBER
CONSTABLE Tong (not his real name) was one of South Africa?s many overworked police personnel for whom life and work were becoming too difficult. This time last year~ he had plunged into a cycle of drug and alcohol abuse.
?I came to a point where I was at mywits?endandwasfeellng suicidal,? he says And It wasn?t until he contacted Frontline - a toll-free helpline for police workers and their families -that things began to improve.
?It really helped me a lot,? he says.
?Through the helpline, I got to see a social worker, and now I see a psychologist on a regular basis.
?I don?t use drugs or alcohol anymore, but sometimes it?s a challenge.? With crime statistics hovering at the top end on the global charts, a lack of resources to augment SAPS with personnel, and Inadequate psychological support, police officers often sink into depression or suffer from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They may encounter horrific situations on a daily basis, and there is little time to deal with the emotional fallout before moving onto the next case.
It was this situation which prompted a private pharmaceutical company, Pharma Dynamics, to team up with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) to set up Fronthne.
Fbr many officers, this service has been a lifeline because It is anonymous. Even where in-house support Is available, seeking help may carry a negative stigma.
Cassey Amoore, counselling services manager at Sadag, says: ?Because we don?t need their officer number, and because their calls do not get logged on their records, they are more willing to share their deepest thoughts of depression, anxiety PTSD and even suicide with a counsellor.? She says some officers who don?t seek help or treatment may end up feeling helpless and hopeless and that the only way to end their problems is to end their lives.
According to Professor Soraya Seedat, South African Research Chair in PTSD in the Department of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University, ?PTSD is a disorder that develops when some individuals who survive a traumatic event are affected so strongly by the experience that they are unable to live a normal life. The symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause a lot of distress, or interfere with work or home life, then It Is probably PrSD.? In the local context, the ongoing exposure of police workers to traumatic situations can have a longterm hnpact if help is not sought.
?Typically, If assistance for PSTD isn?t sought, other problems develop,? explains Professor Seedat.
?These might be drinking or drugs problems - often used as an attempt to ?drown out? the symptoms of the disorder - or, employment and fInancial problems, relationship problems including divorce and partner violence, physical illnesses and feelings of despair? She says that the most effective way of dealing with PSTD is ?usually a combination of a type of counselling treatment - known as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) -and medication?.
Rosemary Gi.ralt, productS manager of neuropsychiatry at Pharma Dynamics, says some form of accessible counselling became necessary so that police officers could seek help without being ?seen as ?weak? or ?not coplng~ with their highly stressful jobs?.
From February to April this yeai the average number of calls that the helpline received per month was 279.
Representatives from Sadag and Pharma Dynamics, however, hope that that number increases over the course of the yeai not because there are more hi need of It, but because there are more aware of It.
A recent report from Sadag indicated that ?helpline posters and business cards were a major success at police stations, and that personnel really identified with the campaign?, but Giralt says marketing the free service to police officers must continue as a matter of top priority ? The toll-free Fronthne number Is 0800 20 5026
TRAUMA: A policeman tries to cope with horrific situations encountered on the job on an almost daily basis. There Is little time to deal with the emotional fallout before moving on to the next case and it is only a matter of time before he readies breaking point and snaps.


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