Saturday, July 13, 2024

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Security officers: ‘No one asks if we are OK’

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A former security guard has launched an initiative to support the mental well-being of security officers in South Africa.

Health Approach Solutions NPC founder Thabiso Nzama started a WhatsApp group in 2020 that led to the creation of Security Cares – South Africa, a national programme aimed at counselling security officers.

“When security officers were declared essential workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, I started a WhatsApp group, offering health tips and support to the officers.”

“We have now started this initiative on a full-time basis. This programme is the first of its kind and follows a well-structured and coordinated partnership approach. Although we already have security officers in this program, we want to make it more structured, which is why we are inviting security companies to sign up for partnership,” he said.

Nzama, now a human resources practitioner and neuroscience coach, said the role and responsibilities of security officers were “huge” and often taken for granted.

“The responsibilities of security officers are often overlooked despite being enormous. Having worked as a security guard myself, I understand how these professionals are treated by our society and the risks and challenges they face in their workplaces.”

“Unfortunately, little is being done to support their health and well-being. It is unfair to expect security officers to be proactive and observant at work while their mental health is not being looked after. Therefore, there is a need for change in the policies to implement mental health support in the sector,” he said.

In addition, security guards may suffer from psychological trauma as a result of the demands and pressures associated with their job.

“When criminals attempt to break in and steal, the first line of defence are the officers. However, they are often targeted by criminals and many of them lack the necessary resources to defend themselves, making them even more vulnerable. Some officers are unable to take their medications for chronic diseases due to their off days not coinciding with their health facility visits. It’s a traumatic experience to wake up every day not knowing what might happen to your life. Unfortunately, some security firms are not equipped to deal with these traumatic experiences and hiring an external practitioner to assist is often a significant barrier.”

Nzama has urged security companies to support the initiative.

“By collaborating, we can enhance the mental health of security officers, benefiting the sector,” he said.

The first phase of the programme is expected to commence soon in Gauteng.

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