Mental Health of Police Officers

Police and PTSD

In this video, I want to bring awareness of the mental health implications police officers face everyday and the toll that it takes on them. Such as PTSD, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. What I hope to accomplish is to share that information and let others know that many of those police officers shouldn't be taking all of the emotional burden on their own.

Produced and Edited by Brian Genao

Mental Health: Police and PTSD

By Brian Genao

Something many people may not realize is the mental health effects that law enforcement work has on police officers. Many of them go through depression, anxiety, substance abuse and PTSD. Yet, many of them don’t seek the help that they need from their own communities.

Our society trains these police officers to be able to take on intense situations. These training sessions police officers receive are not enough for them. Someone, before June 10th and the events of George Floyd,  could enlist as a police officer in Minneapolis and train only 16 weeks, be quickly assigned weapons and sent out to the streets to patrol. They would then spend six months paired with training officers who show them how things work and what to do. Another place like Louisiana requires less training hours to become an officer than to become a barber. The Times-Picayune reported that Louisiana law enforcement recruits typically attend about 360 hours of training, while the national average is slightly more than 600 hours. To become a certified barber in the same place would require over 1,000+ hours of training. With how fast people can become police officers, a lot of them could be emotionally unprepared to take on violent events when they happen.

There are approximately 813,500 sworn police officers in the US who face the immense stress of enforcing the law. The work that these police officers are mostly involved in are stressful and intense. For example, the police can deal with encountering robberies, shootings, child abuse, overall human violence and moments where they have to make sudden life or death decisions. At the end of the day, these police officers are also human and most aren’t even trained well and long enough to even have the  tools to overcome such stress of societal responsibilities they are told to uphold compared to someone who is in the Navy SEALs for example. Navy SEALs have Initial training that lasts  about a year and then complete 18 months of pre-deployment training and intensive specialized training. 

The stress police officers face every day often comes with a price. Being exposed to constant human suffering, pain and death could also result in police officers having a negative view of life, upholding prejudices against certain minority groups, as well as psychological effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Post-traumatic stress disorder, defined by the American Psychiatric Association, as a “psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.” 

Case studies have also shown that police officers suffer symptoms of PTSD at a similar rate as veterans of the military. Studies conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) cited that between seven percent and 19 percent of police officers encounter symptoms of PTSD, compared to 3.5 percent of the general population. Suicide also remains a major issue among police officers in our country as a  According to NAMI, 1 in 4 police officers have had thoughts of suicide at least once in their lives and some even actually taking their own lives from such stress and trauma.

There are many solutions and law enforcement support group programs to help combat mental health issues among police officers such as Copline, Blue H.E.L.P. and Building a Better Cop. Copline is a hotline service where officers can turn to for help if they are dealing with emotional issues such as a divorce, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Blue H.E.L.P provides comfort and honor to families who have lost an officer to suicide and Building a Better Cop provides a training program to police officers about mental health and suicide prevention for those officers who are victims of mental health. 

Unfortunately, there is a big problem in today's society where many police officers do not seek their treatment for PTSD, depression etc. The stigma about having mental health conditions  is a  major issue as many police officers make efforts not to be seen as weak among their peers, as they are thought to be able to just “toughen up” and take in any amount of job-related stress and pain. Society must work together and break the stigma of mental health disorders in general; to keep a lookout on those who are meant to protect us. One must think for their communities as the police themselves risk their lives every single day to protect ours and they should not have to suffer alone in silence while they deal with the horrors that they can witness.

Mental Health vs. Police Officers

In this podcast, I sit down with Colleen M. Cavanagh, a licensed clinical social worker, who has trained over 10 years to be a therapist and treat many different people. She specializes in Mindfulness therapy, Spiritual gaudiness and family therapy. What we focus on today is the mental health of police officers and how many are suffering without seeking the help that they need from their peers and their families.

Produced and Edited by Brian Genao


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