WA Police officers have called for sweeping improvements to the way the State Government looks after their mental health, including making trauma counselling compulsory to stop peers labelling them "soft" for seeking help.
The recommendations, signalling an emerging focus on emotional wellbeing in a traditionally macho profession, are contained in a detailed submission to Parliament by the WA Police Union based on a survey of 141 serving officers.
The submission to the parliamentary inquiry into support for emergency services detailed a range of barriers stopping officers accessing counselling.
They included insufficient resourcing of WA Police's health and welfare division, suspicion that the division would betray their confidence and harm their career prospects, and the stigma of being labelled soft.
These factors resulted in 66 per cent of respondents having reservations about accessing services.
The union said the situation could be improved by ensuring existing services were confidential and providing external therapists, counsellors with police experience and time for officers to "debrief" among themselves.
It also called for compulsory counselling after traumatic experiences and at least annually.
"The trauma suffered by officers is extensive and varied," the submission says.
"The main reported exposures to trauma involved dealing with death in the form of accidental deaths, particularly road accidents, suicides and murders, particularly where children and fellow officers were involved."
Police Union representatives are due to front the inquiry today.
WA Police human resources director Darian Ferguson said forcing officers into therapy could "devalue counselling as being just a part of the process".
"There are already arrangements in place to offer counselling to officers who attend critical incidents," he said.
"All counselling is offered on a confidential basis and WA Police challenges the view that officers are reluctant to seek assistance.
"The culture that exists within WA Police is very supportive of the provision of assistance to officers who are in need."
Former officer David Nelson, who left the force in 1993 after suffering a breakdown, welcomed the union's submission but queried what happened when counselling failed to help."Officers get medically retired as unfit for duty," he said. "What happens then? They don't get compensation."
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