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Law enforcement officers respond to and witness some of the most tragic events that happen in our communities. On-the-job stress can have a significant impact on their physical and mental well-being, which can accumulate over the course of a career. Many officers struggle with alcohol abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, posttraumatic stress disorder and other challenges. Here are some of the facts:
Fortunately, whether you’re a supervisor or patrol officer who wants to help a fellow officer, or a law enforcement leader interested in learning how to build a more resilient agency, there are things you can do to help.
After any critical incident, like responding to a violent crime or death by suicide, each officer involved should have the opportunity to talk with a mental health professional or law enforcement peer support specialist as soon as possible. Supervisors and fellow officers can also offer support to their colleagues, as genuine concern and support can go a long way. Here are some ways to help immediately after an incident:
Law enforcement leaders can take proactive steps to build a more resilient agency to both help prevent mental health crises and address those that occur more effectively. A robust resource for this is NAMI’s Preparing for the Unimaginable: A Report on Officer Mental Health. In response to the Sandy Hook shooting, NAMI worked with the Department of Justice to develop this guide to help police chiefs support officer wellness and more. Here are a few takeaways from the report:
It’s essential to ensure that officers can continue to protect our communities and respond to the needs of people living with mental illness. Law enforcement agencies and communities need to make officer mental wellness a priority from hire to retire. Here’s how you can help: