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Panchkula Police Hires First Grief Counsellor: ‘Survivors have to go through a lot… their grief continues’

Renu Mathur, 56, who has been working as a counsellor for emotional stress, trauma and other issues for the past 20 years, got associated with the police in 2018 after she volunteered to help them.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula |
Updated: December 30, 2019 5:45:19 am
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Setting an example for the whole state of Haryana, the Panchkula police has hired its first grief counsellor for women survivors of various crimes, including rape, domestic abuse and trauma. She also counsels the aggrieved police personnel of the district.

Renu Mathur, 56, who has been working as a counsellor for emotional stress, trauma and other issues for the past 20 years, got associated with the police in 2018 after she volunteered to help them. Recounting her experience, she says, “I remember I had approached the Commissioner of Police of Panchkula, A S Chawla, at the time, who helped me with the process. I first worked as a volunteer and was then taken on the payroll to make it official.”

There are two aspects to the work she does with the police, where she counsels survivors of rape, POCSO and domestic abuse. Talking about the importance of it all, she says, “People forget that the survivors have to go though a lot. The police’s work is over once the case goes to court but the grief of the survivors continues. Not everybody is financially strong or even aware enough to seek support.”

Talking about her counselling for the police, Renu claims she has over a period of time at least dealt with 40 cases as of now. She says, “What people do not understand is that the policemen, be it a constable or a senior-most officer, apart from their responsibilities, answerabilities and professional lives, too are humans. They are fathers, mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and husbands. When a person visits a police station, they talk to the almighty police that exists to safeguard everyone, without realising they too are people with their own issues.”

Explaining the kind of cases she has seen in her brief career, she says, “I have seen cases of trauma at personal levels where people are going through divorces, have lost loved ones, have medical/ financial issues. Losing a parent, going though legal separation is extremely stressful and leave a lifelong impression. Their jobs don’t permit them to go on leave. They have crazy working hours. They have a highly stressful job, where they are answerable to a lot of people, while forgetting they are answerable to themselves as well. There is a long chain of hierarchy in this job. Even the highest remains answerable to so many more. Sometimes, the balance between personal and professional dissolves, it is where people like me come in, to balance emotional and professional.”

On the shocking number of police officers going through such ordeals, she says, “There are at least 30-35 people at a time going through some sort of mental stress or trauma. They might be at a lower level of department or senior. But this number exists.”

Renu counsels through simple conversations without making the use of paper-pen approach. “We need to have regular sessions in a group. Talking to each other, sharing stuff has a much higher effect,” she says.

When asked about trauma the police personnel suffer during their jobs and the cases she has treated for the same, she says, “Till now I have not seen anybody, even after the kind of lives they have, be affected by their job that come seeking counselling at least here in the city. Another reason might be their distrust.”

Renu has not been given the power to suggest leave for the policemen she counsels. She has counselled policemen up to an Inspector level. “Maybe there is no traumatic issues at such higher levels or maybe people are just taking time to reach out,” she says.

On the initiation of the programme, now ADGP (IT operations) A S Chawla says, “A person performing the same thing, they get used to it. It is not that they have lost their humanity, they just need to be sensitised towards the issue again. It has been seen that our profession desensitises people over a period of time. From the victim’s point of view, minor things are missed out. They do not empathise with victims. It is not wrong but it is important for emotions like empathy to exist. This is where Renu walks in, playing a role to help that missing key component become alive again.”

Talking about counselling for survivors, he says, “Police only talk about making city safe, but forget about the victims. It is important that these people get the help they deserve. I believe such work should begin in all districts of Haryana.”

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