Police and other law enforcement professionals face unique challenges on a daily basis. Quick thinking and problem-solving are skills that develop over time. While most days are uneventful, traumatic incidents can occur at any time. Seemingly peaceful situations can escalate into traumatic events in a matter of seconds. Once the situation is over, it will take time for a responding police officer to regain their bearings and get back on track. This is where resiliency plays an important role in law enforcement.
The Need to Be Resilient
As a police officer, you will face many challenges and be put in life or death situations that will have a deep impact on you and how you do your job. You will have to look inside yourself for answers. Resilience training will help you come to terms with the stress you feel on a daily basis. Police stress can involve many different things.
Traumatic experiences, critical incidents that involve split-second decisions, and the pressure to comply with strict guidelines during the performance of your duties will all add to the stress you experience. Constantly being scrutinized by groups that have an agenda can sometimes be overwhelming.
What Is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to recover from stress or trauma in a quick and efficient manner. Learning resilience skills will help you become more adept at handling difficult situations and processing your thoughts and emotions. Resilience comes easier for some than it does for others.
Law enforcement officers are trained to not show emotion and to remain calm and composed at all times. This gives a sense of neutrality. Many officers get so good at showing how resilient they are that they can even fool themselves. The underlying stress that remains when issues are not properly dealt with can lead to mental health issues. True resilience involves being able to express themselves emotionally in a healthy manner.
Dealing With Traumatic Events
Traumatic incidents can take many forms. Gun violence, armed robbery, various types of abuse, homicide, and many other forms of criminal activity can leave an impression on emergency responders and police officers that is long-lasting, and in some cases, emotionally devastating.
Combine these types of crises with other types of job-related stress and the result can be overwhelming. Your ability to be resilient may be pushed beyond its boundaries. This is when you should begin to consider looking into the wellness programs offered by your police department or law enforcement agency.
Coping With Job-Related Stress
Every job within every industry will carry some burden of stress. Police stress affects the body in the same way even though it may be presented differently. Coping with job-related stress involves acknowledging how the stress effects and dealing with the stressors in a calm and effective manner.
Talk to a fellow officer. Try to find a working solution that will alleviate the stress and create a positive work environment where everyone can feel protected and secure. When you are dealing with job-related stress, the key to coping with it is finding ways to accept or resolve the situation. The key is to ease the stress on everyone in the cops office.
Developing Effective Coping Mechanisms
Resilience training is just one way to begin developing effective coping mechanisms when faced with traumatic events. Male officers sometimes find it more difficult to admit that they have problems handling events that affect them deeply on an emotional level.
Female officers, on the other hand, deal with trauma and the emotional aftermath much differently. They are more likely to participate in stress management programs or take advantage of wellness resources that have been made available to them. While depression and thoughts of suicide fall under the category of mental illness, it doesn’t mean that the issues can’t be addressed and dealt with.
Stress Management and Resiliency
Officer wellness is key in every law enforcement agency. Community oriented policing services consider officer safety a top priority. This is why many law enforcement agencies work with the Department of Homeland Security to create programs that promote well-being on every level, mental, emotional, or physical.
Even one law enforcement suicide is unacceptable. Officer suicide can be prevented. It is up to every law enforcement and policing service to monitor their officers. Make the most of every opportunity to provide resilience training and other wellness programs.
Take Advantage of Wellness Programs
Many police officers believe that seeking help for mental health issues is a sign of weakness. This is untrue. It’s a sign of resilience when an officer realizes that he/she does not have to carry that burden alone. Not only do fellow officers deal with the same feelings, all emergency responders deal with trauma as well.
Self-Care and Resilience Skills
Practicing self-care and using resilience skills to cope with stressful situations is just the beginning. Self-care takes many forms from spending a few minutes in quiet meditation to signing up for regular counseling sessions.
How you choose to practice self-care is up to you. When combined with the resilience skills you have, you will be better able to process the difficult emotions that often accompany highly stressful or extremely traumatic incidents.
Building a Solid Support System
Police officers can count on their brothers and sisters who travel the same thin blue line. They also have family members to count on. Each officer must be able to build a solid support system they can rely on when things become too much for them to handle on their own.
In many cases, police officers will rely on their partners for the majority of the support they receive in the workplace. A partner is often the first person to notice when a fellow officer may be suffering from depression or PTSD. Officer resilience can be tested over time. Watching out for one another is what it’s all about.
Include All Emergency Responders
There are many different departments that deal with public safety. Emergency responders include law enforcement officers, sheriff‘s deputies, firemen, EMTs, paramedics, and homeland security personnel.
Take Part in Suicide Prevention Programs
Even the most resilient officers may have moments of weakness. If statistics are correct, law enforcement officers are almost 70% more likely to die of suicide than other workers throughout the country. Police Chief Magazine says that in 2019 alone, 239 suicides were reported among law enforcement officers.
These important programs will only prevent suicide if they are utilized by those they are intended to help. If you see a fellow officer who may be having difficulties, encourage them to take advantage of these valuable programs.
Post-Traumatic Stress Affects Everyone
Post-traumatic stress affects everyone, including the officer’s family. While most officers are able to separate their work from their home life, when a traumatic event occurs, that line may become blurred. When an officer has difficulty coping with an event that occurred in the workplace, it may be up to their family to encourage them to seek out health and wellness programs and support from fellow officers.
Dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder takes patience and time. When an officer experiences any type of traumatic event, their ability to recover may not be as quick as it had in the past. Resilience will allow for recovery if the officer is given an opportunity to utilize the resources they have at their disposal.
Establish Healthy Patterns
It’s important to establish healthy patterns that are proactive in terms of mental health and wellness. Taking the time to meditate, perform yoga, attend church, or simply go for a walk in the woods. Establishing these healthy patterns will lay the foundation for improved resilience and the ability to recover faster and more effectively than if they were not mentally and emotionally prepared to handle traumatic events.
Make a conscious choice to embrace wellness. Whether you are a police officer or a family member of an LEO, it’s up to you to practice self-care and embrace your own health and wellness. Setting an example for others will help to guide them in the right direction if they are ever in a position where depression and PTSD are clouding their judgment. Encourage them to talk. Share your stories and let them know they aren’t alone.
Suicide prevention and health and wellness go hand in hand. Law enforcement officers may receive resilience training and practice self-care. The precautions they take while they serve their communities may save their lives. It will also give them an opportunity to save the lives of other fellow officers who may be suffering in silence.