Law enforcement officers protect us. They respond to tragedies and emergencies on a daily basis. As a result, the stress they face on the job can affect their own mental health. Here is a guide to police officers and mental health and the treatment options available to them.
What Kind of Trauma Do Law Enforcement Officers Face?
Witnessing crisis events can be a cause of stress and anguish for any person. But police officers must respond to crises on an ongoing basis. Here are a few examples of stressful events that law enforcement personnel respond to:
- Natural disasters
- Car accidents
- Child abuse
- Domestic violence
As a result, some members of law enforcement suffer from PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). But why do some police officers get it and others do not? All have exposure to crisis events. And all face stress on their jobs.
Psychology Today offers an explanation for this:
That depends on a lot of factors, internal and external to the officer. How well or poorly the officer copes with stress, what else is happening in her life, how many other unprocessed traumas he has, does she have a concurrent condition like depression or substance abuse? And then there are the external factors, often involving betrayal, slanted media reporting, rejection by the community and lack of support from the officer’s agency.
Not every police officer gets PTSD, because other factors than the stress they face on the job come into play. As mentioned, some may also suffer from substance abuse and depression. Also, some police officers don’t have all the symptoms that lead to a full diagnosis of PTSD. Yet, close to 35 percent have symptoms of this disorder.
The causes of PTSD vary. But a major cause is being involved in a shooting. While many law enforcement officers won’t ever shoot in the line of fire, when it happens, it may affect the mental health of the officer.
Statistics on Police Mental Health
The data available on the mental health of police officers shows a significant number of issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports the following CDC statistics:
- The rates of depression are higher among law enforcement officers than among the general population. Police officers also have higher rates of burnout, PTSD, and other related issues with mental health.
- Almost one in four police officers had thoughts of suicide.
- There were approximately 140 suicides by law enforcement personnel in 2017.
- There are more deaths by suicide than in the line of duty.
- Smaller departments have a higher rate of suicides. It is four times the national average.
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What Are Treatment Options for Police Mental Health Issues?
Law enforcement personnel are first responders. So, the treatment for police mental health issues is often the same as that for first responders. The treatment focuses on depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD.
A successful treatment may include addressing the following issues:
- Anger management
- How to cope during hard times
- Grief and loss
- Managing trauma
- Suicide awareness and prevention
- Family and relationships
- Substance abuse triggers
Here are some of the successful treatment options for police mental health issues.
Individual Therapy and Group Therapy
Police officers see a therapist who identifies how influences come about. This is through specific behaviors and thoughts. Group therapy helps to address past experiences. Painful experiences and difficult ones get attention from a trained therapist.
Both individual and group therapy work well to allow the police officer to release some of the negative thoughts and behaviors.
This is where a psychiatrist works to do the following:
- Supervises medication
- Assesses psychiatric disorders
- Helps treat chemical dependency
- Helps treat mood disorders
EMDR Trauma Therapy
This type of therapy helps clients move forward from emotional pain. Known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, this therapy helps police officers find closure. It also works to reprocess past traumatic experiences.
Police officers have exposure to trauma often. And this type of therapy teaches them how to process it. For past trauma, reprocessing allows a person to see a brighter future instead of carrying so much emotion and pain.
Pain, Stress, and Anxiety Therapy
Another area integral to healing is managing pain, stress, and anxiety. Law enforcement members deal with a lot in these three areas. Stress-reducing techniques help to minimize some of the effects of pain, stress, and anxiety.
While this might sound all work and no play, it is actually quite serene. This therapy involves relaxing. It uses guided imagery, music therapy, and frequency healing. In essence, biofeedback is a stress reliever and harmonizing type of healing.
Here’s what we have to say at Transformations Treatment Center about neurofeedback:
Evidence-based Neurofeedback (BrainPaint) uses real-time displays of electroencephalography or functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to illustrate brain activity, often with a goal of controlling central nervous system activity.
Neurofeedback helps promote healing in a number of areas. These include ADHD, phobias, trauma, fears, ADD, and addiction.
This is a natural form of treatment that eliminates prescription drugs when possible. For instance, a natural supplement protocol promotes a faster and more complete recovery. Also available is an on-staff dietician who helps with nutritional meals. In addition, chiropractic services provide another holistic treatment method for relaxation and comfort.
Beach time, pool time, a health club, and private trainer complete the holistic approach. This creates an atmosphere of peacefulness and allows relaxation and serenity.
Law enforcement leaders should take a helpful approach to mental health for their officers. If they seek professional treatment options, PTSD and other mental health issues will decrease among law enforcement personnel.
Visit the Transformations Treatment Center to find out more about mental health help for police officers.