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 Table of Contents 
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 816-819  

COVID–19 and police personnel: An exploratory community based study from South India


1 Assistant Professor of Community Medicine, Vinayaka Mission's Medical College & Hospital, Karaikal, Puducherry, India
2 Post Graduate Junior Resident, Department of Community and Family Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Raipur, India
3 Under Graduate, Vinayaka Mission's Medical College & Hospital, Vinayaka Mission Research Foundation (Deemed to be University), Karaikal, Puducherry, India
4 Associate Professor of Community Medicine, Vinayaka Mission's Medical College & Hospital, Karaikal, Puducherry, India
5 Professor & Head of Community Medicine, Vinayaka Mission's Medical College & Hospital, Karaikal, Puducherry, India
6 Dean, Vinayaka Mission's Medical College & Hospital, Karaikal, Puducherry, India

Date of Submission24-Jun-2020
Date of Decision13-Sep-2020
Date of Acceptance21-Sep-2020
Date of Web Publication27-Feb-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Gnanamani Gnanasabai
Associate Professor of Community Medicine, Vinayaka Missionís Medical College, Karaikal, Puducherry, India. Vinayaka Missionís Research Foundation (Deemed to be University), Salem - 636 308, Tamil Nadu
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_1249_20

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  Abstract 


Introduction: COVID-19 has ensured that countries enforced complete lock down to prevent the spread of infection. Despite millions of people working from home during this pandemic situation, police personnel 'the front line workers' who deal with the general population to ensure their safety and wellbeing are at risk of stress and other mental health problems in addition to the risk of infection itself. Aim: The aim of this study is to explore the perception of police personnel towards the disease, factors influencing stress and coping abilities of them amid COVID-19. Methods: A cross-sectional qualitative study was conducted using in-depth interviews among randomly selected police personnel working in COVID-19 situation across the district of Karaikal, Puducherry. Results: Of the 32 police personnel, majority were of age group 36-45 (43.75%), followed by 25-35 (37.5%). More than half of them were married (78.12%). Around 62.5% had been in the present occupation for more than 5 years. The in depth interviews were group under 5 themes namely perception, practice they follow amid COVID-19, stress they go through, challenges faced, coping strategies used by them. Conclusion: It is the need of the hour to care for the well-being of frontline workers, especially police personals.

Keywords: COVID-19, Police personnel, Stress, Coping strategies


How to cite this article:
Boovaragasamy C, Kumar M, Sandirakumaran A, Gnanasabai G, Rahman M, Govindasamy A. COVID–19 and police personnel: An exploratory community based study from South India. J Family Med Prim Care 2021;10:816-9

How to cite this URL:
Boovaragasamy C, Kumar M, Sandirakumaran A, Gnanasabai G, Rahman M, Govindasamy A. COVID–19 and police personnel: An exploratory community based study from South India. J Family Med Prim Care [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Apr 21];10:816-9. Available from: https://www.jfmpc.com/text.asp?2021/10/2/816/310251




  Introduction Top


The COVID-19 is potentially a severe acute respiratory infection caused by SARS-CoV 2. It has made an impact both in terms of morbidity and mortality across countries and continents; declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and later a pandemic.[1],[2] Most of the countries enforced complete lockdown and make their people stay at home to prevent the spread of infection. Despite millions of people working from home during this COVID-19 pandemic, the health care workers and police personnel are the front line workers who deal with the patients, suspects, and the people at risk for their safety and well-being. The police personnel are responsible for enforcing stay at home and related orders to halt the disease transmission and keep the public safe. This puts them at higher risk of SARS-CoV 2 infection. Currently, the pandemic has resulted in stress of varying degrees among people. One of the most stressful situations is the unpredictability of the situation and the uncertainty over disease control and the seriousness of the risk. On the other hand, challenges and stress can trigger common mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression.[3] Adding to the inherent stress (occupational) of police personnel, this current COVID -19 situation has brought an impact on their mental health and well-being. Every individual in the country faces the stress of this lockdown and on the other hand, the policemen face the stress of handling the people who violate and protecting the people from the exposure. It is important for the primary care physicians, the so-called first line of defense to understand the impact of COVID-19 in terms of physical and mental health on the general population; in particular vulnerable groups like police personal. Hence the current research was undertaken to explore the perception of the disease, factors influencing the stress, and coping up abilities of them amid COVID-19.


  Materials and Methods Top


Study design

This was a cross-sectional study using in-depth interview as a qualitative method.

Study area and study population

The qualitative research was conducted among the police personnel working for COVID-19 in the district of Karaikal, Puducherry.

Study period

The current study was conducted in the month of April 2020.

Study procedure

In-depth interviews were conducted among a total of 32 police personnel randomly selected from all the areas involving at least 1 police person in each of the police stations from out of the total 15 police stations in the district of Karaikal. The interview was facilitated using an interview guide which was prepared beforehand. Data were captured when they were on duty. The participants were encouraged to use open questions to express their state of stress, different problems, and challenges they came across in working during this crisis period of COVID-19, and how they are coping up for it. Probes were used among the study participants as a hint to think whenever they were unable to get in-depth of the concerned topic. The interview lasted for not more than 20-30 minutes. The interview was recorded after taking consent from the participant and the recordings were kept confidential.

Statistical analysis

Transcripts were written from the audio recording of the in-depth interviews and field notes. Manual thematic content analysis based on the prefixed codes and categories was done.

Ethical consideration

The study was approved by Institutional Ethics Committee. Written informed consent was taken from each of the study participants before starting the interview.


  Results Top


A total of 32 police personnel randomly selected from all the areas involving at least 1 police person in each of the police station from the district of Karaikal participated in the study. In-depth interviews were conducted among them with the help of the interview schedule.

Majority of the participants are from the age group of 36−45 years (43.75%), followed by 25−35 (37.5%). More than half of them were married (78.12%). Around 62.5% had been in the present occupation for more than 5 years. [Table 1]
Table 1: Distribution of Socio-demographic details among the study population (N=32)

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A total of 32 In-depth interviews were conducted till the point of saturation.

Interviews were conducted to explore in depth for capturing the



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The themes that emerged from the IDIs are presented below as headings and supported by quotes from the participants. The participants' responses are provided in green boxes; verbatim responses are within quotes. The content in “bold text” was the responses that were said most emphatically and repeatedly.


  Discussion Top


In the present study, majority of the participants are from the age group of 36 − 45 years (43.75%). Almost 62.5% had been in the present occupation for more than 5 years. This could reveal the cumulative stress over the years in the currently employed occupation. Around 34.38% of the study participants were residing outside the city of Karaikal and it is understood that they are away from their homes in this situation of COVID-19. When asked about the perception of the current pandemic, we could able to capture the fair responses like its causative agent, disease transmission, signs and symptoms and preventive measures; this could be attributed to effective risk communication by Government of India and the role of mass/social media. This clearly states that enough awareness is there among everyone.

When explored about handling of the situation of COVID-19, majority of the policemen expressed that they face stress in various aspects both as personal and as well as at work. In a study conducted by Singh S, et al. it was reported that, the nature of job in relation to work overload, environmental stressors, traveling away from organizations, organizational structure and role conflict, interpersonal stressors, and private and personal stressors contribute to the stress experienced by the police personnel at the workplace.[4]

In the present study, they said that there were less means of refreshments in between the duties adding on to the stress of their daily duties. Since lockdown enforcement effect is in place, there was no availability of “tea shops” for them. This is in similarity to an exploratory study done by Singh S, et al. which describes the job of police personnel as “unlimited and unpredictable” with “insufficient sleep hours and irregular meals” which renders their lifestyle extremely exhausting and unpredictable.[5]

When explored in-depth about the stress and the challenges faced by them, they opened that despite of regular continuous duties, spending less time on family health care and other needs during this lockdown situation, they have fear of mingling with their family members because of the fear of infecting them, not able to spend time with the family members as like everyone does in this lockdown period, no provision of daily allowance were commonly reported by most of the police personnel. The most challenging thing faced by them at this time is, making the people stay in their homes and not violating the lockdown.

Coping mechanisms are the individual person's strategies for tackling the stress. Likewise, the coping skills adopted by them were accepting the stressful events as a part of job responsibility or fact of life, seeking support from the family/friends, sense of accomplishment of doing the duties as a service. Similarly, a fewer studies reported that engaging in physical activities, entertainment sources like TV and music, thinking positively the problems can be solved and confront the problems, trying to find comfort in their religion, trying to see everything in a different light to make it more positive were the coping mechanisms likely to be adapted by them though their applicability in a crisis situation such as COVID-19 is questionable.[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14]


  Conclusion Top


This study contributes to our understanding of how the police personnel perceive and cope up with the current situation of COVID-19 and hence it is the need of this hour to prioritize the well-being of the police personnel. It was observed that police officers adapt different forms of coping with stress; either trained or learnt with experience. If tested and evaluated adaptive methods are used, the consequences of occupational stress can be reduced.

Recommendations

Considering the current situation of COVID-19, we would like to recommend the following for the police personnel. They should be provided with personal protective equipment like mask and sanitizers. Facilities for proper periodical screening of police personnel should be made to alleviate stress. Rationalizing the duty for in terms of duty hours/days can be done. Making refreshments available or provisioning them through allowances. Keeping them motivated through regular situation update meetings. Hence these measures needed to be taken to address their stress and challenges faced.

Acknowledgment:

We are grateful to Dr. Ambujam, Dean, Vinayaka Missions Medical College, Karaikal, Puducherry for her constant motivation and support towards research.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Sun J, He WT, Wang L, Lai A, Ji X, Zhai X, et al. COVID-19: Epidemiology, evolution, and cross-disciplinary perspectives. Trends Mol Med 2020;26:483-95.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Gorbalenya AE, Baker SC, Baric RS, et al. The species Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus: Classifying 2019-nCoV and naming it SARS-CoV-2. Nat Microbiol 2020;5:536-44. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41564-020-0695-z.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
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Zandifar A, Badrfam R. Iranian mental health during the COVID-19 epidemic. Asian J Psychiatr 2020;51:101990.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Singh S, Gupta B, Sharma D, Mishra PC. A Study of stress, coping, social support, and mental health in police personnel of Uttar Pradesh. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2019;23:73-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
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Singh S, Kar SK. Sources of occupational stress in the police personnel of North India: An exploratory study. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2015;19:56-60.  Back to cited text no. 5
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
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Mushwana MRV, Govender I, Nel K. Stress and coping mechanisms of officers of the South African police service based in Tzaneen, Limpopo province, South Africa. S Afr J Psychiat 2019;25:a1342.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
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Acquadro Maran D, Varetto A, Zedda M, Ieraci V. Occupational stress, anxiety and coping strategies in police officers. Occup Med (Lond) 2015;65:466-73.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
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Balgaonkar V, Bidkar SJ, Manganale VS. A study on coping strategies used by police for managing stress. Int J Organ Behav Manag Perspect 2014;3:1128.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
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Zulkafaly F, Kamaruddin K, Hassan NH. Coping strategies and job stress in policing: A literature review. Int J Acad Res Bus Soc Sci 2017;7:458-67.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
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Acquadro Maran D, Zedda M, Varetto A. Organizational and occupational stressors, their consequences and coping strategies: A questionnaire survey among Italian patrol police officers. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2018;15:166.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
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Arble E, Daugherty AM, Arnetz BB. Models of first responder coping: Police officers as a unique population. Stress Health 2018;34:612-21.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
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Pastwa-Wojciechowska B, Piotrowski A. Sources, consequences and methods of coping with stress in police officers. J Alcohol Drug Depend 2016;4:4.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
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Stogner J, Miller BL, McLean K. Police stress, mental health, and resiliency during the COVID-19 pandemic. Am J Crim Just 2020;45:718-30.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
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Mukhtar S. Psychological health during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic outbreak. Int J Soc Psychiatry 2020;66:512-6.  Back to cited text no. 14
    



 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2]



 

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