The first thing most of us think when we read that title is 'sweat more in training so I bleed less in battle'. Good try. Not quite where I'm going with this one today.
I'm going to jump balls deep into the topic of MENTAL HEALTH. Oh shit...she did it...omg.
It's a big deal. In fact it hits close for me. Its such a big deal that the New York City Police Dept has already lost 9 officers this year to their own hand. Think about that for a minute. We struggle to fathom the loss of one of our own in the field to the job but NINE...TO THEMSELVES!? The questions should be where are we dropping the ball and how do we pick it back up.
I once had a supervisor tell me to stop trying to force logical solutions to an illogical problem. Quite frankly I feel like that's what we have done to mental health in law enforcement. We try to force logical solutions (what works for everyone else) to an illogical problem (a group of people that see uncommon things daily). It simply isn't working.
You will see a lot more "law enforcement specific" therapists and treatment facilities popping up across the nation. Why? Because we need specialized attention. There is nothing wrong with us. We just get to see things on a DAILY basis that most civilians see once in a lifetime if ever at all. The popping up of these specialists and facilities is perfect. Not only can we get the help that we desperately need, but we can do so with a form of confidentiality. Personally I don't wanna pull over a guy on a traffic stop I just saw in the waiting room of my shrink.
Now that we have established we have a problem, a 124 officers already this year problem, how can we fix this?
Better yet how can you fix this on YOUR level.
-Ask your partner if they are OK. Sounds simple and stupid but did you know that reliving a traumatic even by talking out that even helps your brain process the trauma? It's true. Ever notice that joking around with the guys about the crazy call you were just on helps you not only calm down but process? Same with any kind of traumatic event. Keep in mind our version of a traumatic event may be considerably different than someone else.
-If your agency doesn't already have one-incorperate a peer support program. My agency just did this a couple of years ago. The biggest hurdle for a program like this isn't just getting officers willing to do it but getting the TRUST of the employees. For a big agency
like mine we have just as many non certifieds as we do certifieds. The biggest battle for us is getting a diverse group of people certified to do the job. So what does the job entail. Well. A lot actually. I answer calls from anyone at the office, any level employee, calls from minor domestic situations (feeling trapped, etc), death notifications, funerals, up to and including a lot of suicidal subjects.
So how did we gain the trust of our employees? We used people that they already know and trust and then added in a bonus. Confidentiality. Yep you read that correctly our people have confidentiality. Which means I cant tell anyone. Your supervisor, your mother, santa claus...no one you dont give me permission to speak to (within reason). Its caused a huge turn out in employees who seek help.
-END THE STIGMA. Seriously. Quit making mental health such a ridiculous notion. I teach in a few of my classes that if you act like an asshole going to a regular mental health or suicidal subject call in the field-dont expect your coworkers to come to you for help. Youve already shown them how you feel about the issue whether you realize it or not. Help break the cycle.
Those few simple things may seem futile when we are losing so many to themselves; but lets be honest 90% of the time when we pull ourselves out of the darkness its from something as simple as a few words from someone letting us know we aren't alone.
Lets not forget our fire, medical, and dispatcher friends. They experience the SAME trauma that we do. Sometimes just on a different level.
Be compassionate, dont be a dick, and be there for your brother or sister when they fall. It takes 15 minutes to hear someone out as opposed to the 15 minutes that you'll sit through their eulogy.
With all of this said. Please visit some of the following pages and share some of this info!!
Crisis Text Line Text BLUE to 741741
Suicide Prevention Lifeling 1800-273-TALK