Just look around you. Today more than ever, people seem to hate and distrust the police. The news seems to be reporting around the clock on police brutality and bullying. Social media has been blowing up with anti-police posts. Everyone seems to have something negative to say about the police and their role in society.
It doesn’t matter what people think of the police, the cops still go out every day ensuring their communities’ safety and seeking justice. Police often work long hours in a thankless job, seeing the worst of humanity. They go out each day having to make life and death decisions in an attempt to make their slice of the world a better place.
They live in a world of constant uncertainty. When they pull up to a call or pull a person over on a traffic stop, they don’t know what is going to happen. Questions like, “Does this person have a gun?” and “Are they mentally unstable?” overwhelms their thoughts.
A rush of adrenaline often overcomes their bodies, pushing them forward, towards imminent danger.
Imagine what this constant state of heightened emotions can do to a person mentally and physically.
Unlike your average Joe, police officers not only fear for their own life, but the lives of the people they are sworn to protect.
MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS
Police officers are constantly exposed to human suffering and death. This can result in psychological effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and suicidal thoughts.
A few of the many stressful events police officers are exposed to are violence, seeing dead bodies and abused children. These events can cause a major increase in a person’s stress levels, resulting in psychological and physical disturbances like poor sleep quality.
A study published in policing states that exposure to traumatic events is associated with hyperarousal or hypervigilance. Officers who have been exposed to traumatic events and who are in a state of hyperarousal tend to experience more duty-related violence.
PTSD is prevalent in almost 10% of men and 9.1% of women police officers.
PTSD is a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress that occurs as a result of injury or severe psychological shock.
If a police officer is experiencing PTSD, they may experience symptoms such as:
- Re-living really traumatic incidents
- Avoidance of others
- Negative moods and/or thoughts
- Dulled responses to others and/or to the outside world
- Arousal that is shown through aggression
- Sleep difficulties
- Self-destructive behaviors.
Civilians who are suffering from PTSD might experience:
- Constant fatigue
- Stomach issues
- Autoimmune disorders
- Chronic pain
- Alcohol abuse.
Following is a list of resources to help police officers overcome their mental health challenges.
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
Police officers are often exposed to other people’s traumatic situations. The Vicarious Trauma Toolkit is a great resource for police officers because it includes tools and resources that are tailored to first responders’ needs because they must provide knowledge and skills on vicarious trauma.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Science Blog as a way to educate police officers on the prevention and reduction of officers’ injuries. This research talks about how law enforcement is a dangerous occupation and discusses a few of those dangers and provides education on how to reduce them.
Suicide is a major mental health concern for law enforcement. The traumatic events police experience wreaks havoc on a person’s mental health and can result in suicidal thoughts. The CDC published, Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices as a guide to help identify suicidal thoughts and prevent suicide.
Solutions for People in the Workplace have a section on their website called Resources for the Blue. This website provides valuable information on facts about PTSD, understanding PTSD, how PTSD occurs, how common it is, consequences associated with PTSD, and how to overcome this psychological disorder.
ORGANIZATIONS AND NONPROFITS THAT SUPPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT
The National 9-99 Police and Sheriff Foundation is a non-profit organization that helps disabled law enforcement officers and their families’ transition to civilian life after a career-ending injury through providing psychological, emotional, physical, and monetary support.
The Hidden Battles Foundation is a non-profit organization that helps veterans, firefighters, police officers, and first responders through helping them get treatment and counseling for depression, suicidal tendencies, and PTSD.
The foundation’s main goal is to raise awareness of suicide-related deaths in those who defend our freedom and public safety. The cause of these deaths is often related to mental health conditions such as PTSD, job-related stress, traumatic brain injuries, and separating military service and civilian life.
The National Association of Police Organizations is a coalition of police unions and associations from all around the United States. It was organized for the purpose of advancing the interests of America’s law enforcement officers through legislative advocacy, political action, and education.
The National Police Association is a non-profit organization that educates supporters of law enforcement on how to help police departments accomplish their goals. This organization also undergoes in-depth investigations, legal filings, and clear communication to advance its mission of combating the influence of anti-police activists.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is one non-profit organization that honors fallen police officers. The mission of this organization is to honor the fallen, tell the story of the American Law Enforcement, and make it safer for those who serve through conducting research into officer fatality trends and issues.
The National Law Enforcement Museum educates the public through interactive exhibits, immersive collections, research, and educational programs.
For those who are struggling, remember that help is always as close as the Brother or Sister sitting next to you. You will never be alone.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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