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Law enforcement and mental health

By Help For Our Heroes Program

Police officers and mental health 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


• Injury


•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.

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.

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

Some of the successful treatment options for police mental health issues include individual therapy, group therapy, and dual diagnosis.

During individual therapy and group therapy, police officers see a therapist who identifies how influences come about. 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.

For dual diagnosis, a psychiatrist works to supervise medication, assesses psychiatric disorders, help treat chemical dependency, help treat mood disorders and/or offers EMDR Trauma Therapy.

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