Rising stress and suicides among Nepal Police personnel

Published On: December 10, 2023 08:13 PM NPT By: Arun Bam

KATHMANDU, Dec 10: Statistics from the Nepal Police Headquarters reveal that 35 police personnel, including staff up to the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) level, have tragically committed suicide over the past seven years.

According to the data provided by the police HQ, the breakdown includes one SSP, one Police Senior Sub Inspector (Senior SI), one Assistant Sub Inspector of Police (ASI), five Police Head Constables, 21 Police Constables, and two Police Office Assistants who took their own lives.

Analyzing the figures over seven years, the incidence of suicides appears to be increasing annually. Two police personnel committed suicide in the fiscal year 2016/17, three in 2017/18, four in 2018/19, seven in 2019/20, four in 2020/21, eight in 2021/22, and seven in 2022/23.

Former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Hemant Malla expressed deep concern over the rising trend of suicides among police personnel, emphasizing its alarming nature. "Increasing suicides pose a very dangerous issue for society, particularly considering that such incidents are not common within the police force," he stated. "It's terrible."

In addition to the growing suicide rates, there has been an uptick in premature resignations among police personnel. Over the last five fiscal years, 5,961 police personnel voluntarily retired, with a higher proportion at lower job levels.

Nepal Police data indicates that 374 sub-inspectors, 196 ASIs, 3,986 constables, 88 assistant head constables, 980 police constables, and 245 police office assistants have left the service before reaching the mandatory retirement age.

Similarly, 11 Senior SIs, 54 Police Inspectors, 18 DSPs, six SPs, two SSPs, and one DIG have opted for premature voluntary retirement.

Beyond voluntary resignations, there is also an alarming rate of police personnel leaving their duties and becoming uncontactable. The police head office issues public notices from time to time to locate such personnel. Former DIG Malla interprets this trend as indicative of growing dissatisfaction within the police organization. He remarked, “There is considerable dissatisfaction among police personnel. The demands of professional life have created many problems in their personal and family lives.” Malla added, “Those unable to cope with the stress may suffer from mental illness, and tragically, some resort to suicide.”

Former DIG Malla further highlighted financial difficulties faced by some police personnel, saying, “Some are unable to settle their debts with their police jobs. Those seeking alternatives may leave the force, while others, unable to do so, endure mental health issues due to stress.”

Professional burden, family problems, and stress

Former Additional Inspector General of Police (AIG) Raviraj Thapa stated that military services, like police and soldiers, are highly stressful professions worldwide. He said, “The profession of going to areas affected by riots, violence, risking one's life is stressful. However, in the Nepali environment, Nepal Police personnel have to face additional stress due to other professional reasons. The primary concern is the lack of service perks and benefits. How can a person be happy if a job doesn't support their household?”

Experts argue that unhealthy politics has contributed to increasing tension in police personnel. The situation requires political influence for general transfers and promotions. Even while fulfilling professional obligations, it must be done at the behest of political leaders, or else police personnel face the risk of transfers and promotions being affected.

Former AIG Thapa highlighted that this is affecting the self-esteem of police personnel, leading to increased dissatisfaction among the staff. He added, “In the past, a military job was considered an honorable profession. Now, even ordinary party workers pretend to be leaders. This impersonation has caused mental distress. The biggest problem faced by lower-ranking police personnel is the absence of fixed duty hours. The standard eight-hour workday, as in other professions, is not applicable to Nepal Police personnel.”

“Due to the current manpower, it is impossible to manage security with those advocating for eight-hour shifts,” stated DIG Kuwer Kadayat, the spokesperson for the police headquarters. “Even now, they have to work for 16/17 hours.”

Apart from these issues, experts note that marital relationship breakdown is a major factor in police personnel suicides. Former DIG Malla stated, “Intense busyness and long-distance living breed suspicions when husband and wife are apart for extended periods. In some cases, extramarital relationships have been observed, leading to rifts that seem to have contributed to mental illness and suicide.”

It appears that the number of dissatisfied and stressed employees in Nepal Police is increasing due to economic weakness, confusion in moral development, heavy duty, fatigue, decreasing social respect, inability to fulfill family responsibilities, and crises in married life.

Ex-DIG Malla emphasized that police personnel under stress, facing mental problems, and contemplating suicide pose a danger when working for public safety. “Police have weapons. If they are not mentally capable, there is a risk when they go to public places with weapons,” warned Malla. “Incidents of police firing on civilians have occurred in India and America. While such an incident has not happened by chance in Nepal, six police personnel have committed suicide by shooting themselves with their own weapons in the last seven years.”

Experts believe it is essential to address this growing crisis in the police force. Former AIG Thapa urged, “If we are not cautious now, a serious accident may occur later. The police leadership should be aware and hold the government responsible in time.” Thapa also emphasized the necessity of mental health check-ups and psychosocial counseling within the police force.

Nepal Police Spokesperson DIG Kadayat mentioned that efforts are underway to address problems within the police organization. “The organization is working to solve the problems of police personnel, which are being coordinated with the government,” he stated. “There are police hospitals in all provinces for the healthcare of police personnel. If necessary, treatment is also provided in other hospitals, including psychiatric treatment, although it is not mandatory.”

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