When 29-year-old Manish Dham (name changed) joined the police force as a constable around six years ago,he was not prepared for the psychological stress the job entailed. I know my job demands me to perform tough tasks. However,when I had to pick up mutilated bodies and handle murder cases daily,I discovered how difficult this job is, he confesses.
So far,Dham has been admitted in Nagpada Police Hospital four to five times due to depression. I have been getting bouts of depression for the last two-three years. I dont feel like doing anything and I experience sleepless nights, he said. His wife has been urging him to quit the force.
Free treatment also covers the bulk of psychiatric ailments,although serious cases are referred to the Thane Mental Hospital. Emergency cases normally do not come to the Nagpada Police Hospital. Here,we mostly get patients for counselling sessions, said Dr S M Patil,Police Surgeon.
Though the cashless treatment scheme for Mumbai Police was launched eight years ago,cost continues to trouble the personnel,Patil says. Under the scheme,treatment for 32 diseases is free at two police hospitals (Nagpada and Naigaon),12 dispensaries and 22 hospitals.
During the 2005 floods,the force faced its first challenge since the scheme was launched. A constable had contracted leptospirosis and was running a high fever. He was in urgent need of a ventilator but none was available at the public hospitals we called. Finally,we found one at Lilavati Hospital. The police took care of his treatment, said Patil.
A 40-year-old police naik posted at Tardeo police station said,I had fever for two days,but I still had to report for work. Later,I found out that I had malaria. He said he contracted malaria on duty and rarely got time to take care of his health. My work timings stretch for 12 hours and I hardly get the time to sleep, he said.
Vijay R Chauhan,52,said he has been working as a ward boy at the Nagpada hospital for 27 years. I have seen cases of fever,diabetes,kidney problems and specially HIV patients. More complicated cases like cardiac arrest and urinary tract infection are referred to larger hospitals, he said.
The most common problems that constables and officers enumerated were related to food and stress. First,we dont get the time to eat. Sometimes,our work hours stretch from 12 to 48 hours. When the Ayodhya verdict was announced,we were asked to remain on duty for 72 hours at a stretch, said Abhishek Patel,26,and his colleague Kiran Rao,27 (names changed),both constables.
Patil admitted that mental health remains a concern among the force. Mental disorders are detected at a very late stage. Patients dont confide in their families until too late, he said. Patil recalls that a constable posted with Kandivali police station,who was diagnosed with schizophrenia,recently resumed work.
He was being treated at a private hospital in Nallasopara after an accident. Even after he was diagnosed as having chronic schizophrenia,he asked for a clean bill of health to resume full duty. He is just 45,but with his condition,he cannot be given a weapon. I have recommended light duty, he said.