For the first time, Boksburg SAPS staff members, including police officers, support staff and groundsmen, have a safe space to take a few minutes out after particularly traumatic events they may have encountered in their line of duty.
The ‘breathe room’, which was opened to help members deal with their daily traumatic experiences and recharge for on their next assignments, was launched at the police station on November 9.
It was designed, decorated and furnished in a way that creates a calming feel with appropriate material, including pictures, music, and soft lighting, as well as pamphlets and booklets with information on trauma, mental illness, how to do self-referrals and other health information.
This welcoming relaxation room is the brainchild of one of the senior officers Captain Susan Meyer.
She revealed this was born out of her research for her recent studies on violence, trauma, suicide and other mental-related issues, particularly in the police force.
“I found that as police officers we need a safe space to breathe after all the traumatic scenes or violent crimes we encounter. We are also human beings and
need to look after ourselves holistically – our bodies, our minds and our spirits. I hope that this will benefit us all as our sanctuary where we can go to and cry if we
have to,” said Meyer.
“I know in the police we have a special coping mechanism, but it is not all good. Those incidents stay with us for a very long time, if not forever and eventually develop in a harmful way, which, like a steam kettle, wreaks havoc when bottled up too long.
“We tend to bottle up the traumatic incidents, violence, yelling, shouting, name calling and sometimes negative publicity in the media. All of these things have a very
serious impact on our mental health.
“In that room, there is material to help members with coping skills. It’s just where you can privately have a safe space to be yourself. I hope this will be created in all the stations.”
Boksburg SAPS station commander Colonel Matshedeso Mbele thanked Meyer and the sponsors for creating this space, which she believes will boost well-being
in the force that has an alarming level of reported cases of mental illness among police officers.
“When Meyer suggested this room to me, I said maybe I will be the first one to use it, because of all the things we are going through here daily. As police officers, our job is stressful and this will help to improve the physical and mental health of our workforce,” said Mbele.
She pointed out that recent statistics released by one of the local government medical aid schemes revealed that there are thousands of police officers going through
mental illnesses in the country.
This also negatively impacts their dependents’ mental health.
The project was supported by locals, who donated the renovation, furnishing and decorating supplies, as well as booklets on mental health for the new facility.
Also Read: Five ways to recharge your mental health