Police Officers: A Look at Their Mental Health

Police officers have to see and do a lot of things that the normal civilians may
never have to encounter, and thankfully so! Officers see dead bodies, broken families,
violence, children that are harmed, mass casualties, bad car wrecks, suicides and so
much more. Processing all this can be cumbersome. PTSD, anxiety, depression,
alcoholism are all products of what the mind can do when it has been traumatized.

Much of the law enforcement community is very weary when it comes to asking
for any kind of mental health help. Many of them think this will show them as weak or
that it could be a reason to have their gun taken away or even lose their job. Officers
should never have to feel this way.

Suicides in the law enforcement community are not uncommon. Divorce rates
are high and the use of alcohol is prevalent. The question posed is what can
departments do to help their officers? Are there some solutions out there that could
help officers feel comfortable getting help with their mental health? There are a few out
there:

1. Time off after a bad call.: Some departments already offer this as a help to their
officers who have experienced a traumatic call. This gives the officer time to
process what has happened and get some rest from the mental stress it may
cause.

2. EAPs: EAPs are part of a departments benefits that give the officer a chance to
have counseling for free or at a discounted rate. Usually the department partners
with a local mental health clinic for an EAP benefit. Departments should make
sure their officers are aware that they offer this benefit.

3. Healthy work/home life balance: This one is tricky since most officers work shift
work. Some departments have started given the officers a chance to choose to
work straight night shifts or straight day shifts. This is atypical of the standard
swing shifts officers are used too. This helps to keep the body in some sort of
regular sleep pattern. Departments should keep overtime down to avoid officers
being overworked as well.

4. Incident debriefs: When major incidents occur like school shootings, or
gruesome murders, etc… an incident debrief should occur. This gives the
officers involved a chance to discuss things and maybe see the incident in a
healthier way.

5. Encouraging time off: Officers should be encouraged to use their holiday time or
PTO time. This gives them time away from the job to spend time with family and
friends. Doing this is a healthy way to decompress.
Mental health of our officers is very important and it needs to be a priority for
every single department.

These men and women deserve it.

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