Bereavement support likely to be made part of police training

Th police, the first responders in any fatal accident or disaster, have to empathetically deal with the emotional trauma of the victims’ families

Bereavement support may shortly become part of police training.

Talking to The Hindu, P. Vijayan, Director of Social Policing, said that such a proposal would be taken up at the level of the State Police Chief shortly.

He said that bereavement support should have been taken up seriously long before the pandemic drew attention to it in a State where on an average nearly 4,000 accident deaths and thousands of suicides are reported annually.

“The victims are mostly in the 18-50 years age group and are central to their families. Their sudden death leave a traumatic and irreparable void in the lives of their dear ones. Scientifically equipping police, the first responders in any emergency or disaster, to empathetically deal with the emotional trauma of the victims’ families will turn them into a compassionate professional force,” said Mr. Vijayan.

What inspired the proposal is the Bereavement Companionship Programme being run jointly by the Mission Better Tomorrow, an NGO, the Institute of Palliative Medicine, and the Sydney-based Death Literacy Institute.

“Pathological grief where a person is unable to recover from the grief was not something associated with the closely knit Asiatic societies. But the pandemic disrupted the social support that enabled people to live through the grief making the absence of professional bereavement support very glaring. The programme is aimed at creating a pool of trained bereavement support volunteers at the community-level,” said Suresh Kumar, founder director, Institute of Palliative Medicines, a collaborating centre of World Health Organisation.

The interactive programme was designed based on the feedbacks from people who had gone through bereavement in the last five years.

The 15-hour programme is split into online sessions spread over three days. The sessions are now conducted by Kerrie Noonan, director of the Death Literacy Institute and a globally reputed bereavement therapist since there are hardly any experts in the field in the country. The sessions in English are translated into Malayalam in real time basis.

“Gradually our trained volunteers will take over the sessions. The idea is to run the programme for at least five years so that a critical mass of volunteers are created, including people’s representatives and religious figures who closely associate with bereavement,” said Dr. Kumar.

The first batch of 20 volunteers has completed the training and the second batch will commence in the second week of this month. Anyone aged 21 years and above can attend the programme and there is no other eligibility criteria except to ensure regional and gender balance.

“The complex issues like guilt associated with grieving often go unaddressed. Volunteers undergoing the programme for bereavement support need to do it in a self-reflective way realising their own strengths and weaknesses,” said Saif Mohammed, CEO, Mission Better Tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the programme seems to have inspired an offshoot with the Kozhikode-based Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences announcing a foundational bereavement course for psychiatrists, psychiatric social workers and clinical psychologists for handling those found vulnerable in managing grief.

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