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Psychologists to be deployed in RPFAB, schools

For months Police Commissioner Atlee Rodney has advocated for priority to be placed on the mental health of police officers. Now, at long last, the decision has been made to appoint a Mental Health Specialist/Counselling Psychologist to the Royal Police force of Antigua and Barbuda.

This development was confirmed by Minister of National Security, Steadroy Benjamin, this week.

In the post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday, Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ambassador Lionel “Max” Hurst, further revealed that there are also plans for mental health counsellors to be deployed in schools.

When asked if prisoners with mental health challenges at  His Majesty’s Prison (HMP) will also benefit from the new service, Hurst said they will not be included at this time; the counsellors will only be available to police officers and in schools at this time.

He noted, however, that the government does intend to also provide counselling services for prison officers at a later date.

“More than 700 men and women make up the Royal Police force of Antigua and Barbuda and some of their duties can be very taxing. Remember they too have families, and the counselling psychologist for the police is to be for the police only.

“For the prison officers I think that later on we will address that. but at the moment these two psychologists are going to be attached to the RPFAB,” Hurst said.

The ambassador continued that at schools the counsellors will focus “primarily on teachers, to assist teachers in what has been a rather difficult period coming out of COVID”.

“We know that many teachers in fact appealed for the kind of services these counsellors will offer, so, the government has gone out of its way to bring on board these four counsellors that will be assigned to the four regions or for the four zones for which education is divided and each will have a zone of his or her own.

“Maybe sometime in the near future, we will consider the same thing for prison officers because we know some of the conditions under which they work are not the best, but that has not yet been contemplated by the Cabinet,” Hurst said.

Rodney upon hearing the news expressed his gratitude “for making this professional available to the police given the stresses of their job”.

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