In Brazil,at least 43 military police officers are removed from work every day for psychiatric disorders. A worrying fact, especially in a profession whose mission is to protect the citizen.
Permanent alert, stress, risky situations, confrontation, fear.And if all this accumulated over the years turns into a disease? What if this is all your profession? How a police officer is seen and treated by the Corporation when he has some kind of psychological distress?
Fantástico collected data from all the Brazilian military police, who works directly with conflict, to find out about their mental health. And the result is worrying.
This was Fantástico´s first news report using data journalism, all made by us. It took around five months to get all data information needed for analyzing the current scenario of the matter described previously. Unfortunately, Brazil has differences in terms of compliance with the law and responses to access to public security information requests.
Once this first step was mostly completed, we took a couple months more to finish producing it all before airing, on September 15th.
The Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea), CICV and FBSP, three of the most important foundations/institutions that uses public security data for their surveys, asked me for sharing the results of my research, so it helps doing future researches about the matter. Indeed, Ipea is starting a study about police victimization.
Finally, police officers (especially the ones from the lowest ranks) and health professionals from the military corporations were encouraged to continue their work and denounce the prejudices and damage that the lack of psychological support brings to police officers and, consequently, to society.
It was also important to reveal the taboo subject within the militaries, as well as to denounce the prejudice suffered by many police officers who seek psychological assistance in the workplace.
We also show the initiatives of some states in Brazil, which maintain activities designed for the military police mental health assistance.
Initially, I sent several requests through the Law of Access to Information (LAI) to all twenty-seven federative units in Brazil. It took a few months until I could have enough data to analyze the mental health reality inside the military police in the country; Then, I created a database in Excel and tried to insist for most of data I could get from the states, once they didn´t answer all I’ve asked in the first replies; I did some data crossing on Excel for analyzing the scenario and finding some headlines (like the one in the first phrase from the first question).
Once this is a scarcely explored subject I had to keep insisting, also by phone, for data and informations that I had already requested through LAI. For the support images, and super-produced takes, I negotiated with Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Bahia e Santa Catarina policies.
The tunnel metaphor was also explored to talk about the disorders suffered by these professionals
What was the hardest part of this project?
I highlight the difficulty of obtaining data on the subject in the public security of the states, which keeps a highly relevant issue as a taboo in the military, especially due to the conditions in which these police work, and taking into account the violence of the country added to the type of work of these public security professionals. As well as the prejudice on the subject in the military, which make it difficult for these police officers to seek psychological and psychiatric support services. So, too, the numbers of suicides, psychiatric leave, and police killings only increase.
What can others learn from this project?
About the process,we can learn that the journalist needs to have mastery over the data he´s collecting,and the support of statisticians or data scientists,who can help in the mathematical part, without the journalist losing sight of the analytical character. Doing the process, alone, from start to final moments(when my editor Thiago helped me a lot, including the many times we've checked all data before airing the story) made me realize how fragile are the data provided by the state public security, the lack of a standard of transparency and information on the issues related to the mental health of these professionals who are exposed daily to situations of stress, conflict, without the necessary conditions to exercise the security of citizens. Which can culminate in police suicides, depression and other mental disorders, which lead these professionals to ask for medical leave, or to remain active with aggressive and unlimited behaviors.
I guess the message we bring with the project is good because Brazilians don´t trust their military police. Nowadays, they´re totally apart from society. Although, they´re humans like everybody, and their work in Brazil make them more susceptible to disease.It brings a critical reflection on the society we want to live.