Stress and traumatic events in life are things that can affect anyone at any given point in time. The level of severity may differ, but we all are equally susceptible to such events. With the varying level of severity, individual’s ability to react to such incidents vary as well. People work through stress or traumatic events they have experienced, to retain the normal/positive life they lived before. Sometimes this does not occur. As a member of law enforcement, this topic is very real and important in the law enforcement community. Working as a law enforcement officer, I as well as others, chose to get into the field understanding the stress that comes with the job and assume that we will not fall a victim of traumatic situations from our work experiences. This class has developed my understanding around things such as trauma, stress, and PTSD. I used to believe individuals that suffered from these things were not mentally determined enough to overcome their experiences or simply could not separate incidents from their personal life. I quickly discovered with this course, we can all feel the effects of traumatic and stressful situations. If symptoms go untreated, it can lead to many life changing struggles to include PTSD. Other symptoms include “increased absenteeism, turnover, declines in performance, slower reaction time, poorer decision-making ability, increases in complaints, policy violations, and misconduct allegations. (RTI, 2018)”
Law enforcement officers respond to calls when almost every time, people are experiencing their worst days. With responding to negative situations frequently, officers are exposed to traumatic events that can affect an individual differently both physically or mentally. In addition to stresses brought on by responding to a situation, the negative social views on law enforcement can increase the stress felt from by an individual when handling a situation as many individuals do not support police. When responding to calls, officers are required to make split second decisions that could be life or death endings and are required to possess the cognitive ability to think as a counselor as well as an enforcer of the law. “Managing officer stress facilitates better decision-making, fairer treatment and improved relationships between officers and the community members they serve. (RTI, 2018)”
In order to combat the effects of stress/trauma, individuals must recognize the work-related as well as individual factors that create stress and fatigue in the officer. Examples of work-related factors are excessive overtime, shift rotations, change of job duties, etc. Examples of individual factors are family problems, financial problems, health concerns, etc. (Beshears 2017). An officer’s ability to recognize which factors are relevant to them will assist in developing a customized plan to strategically attack the negative factors affecting their mental state. As we have seen in class, this becomes effective once an agenda is absorbed and supported by a police department as a whole to include superior officers. Breaking the barriers to seek treatment is a big obstacle to overcome as the negative stigma surround mental care is still relevant in today’s time. I believe that once this challenge has been overcome, individual’s likelihood to seek treatment or help will exponentially increase with them not having a fear of being targeted negatively. Individuals have many options when it comes to treatment but it requires publicity on its availability as well as it having no negative consequences to participating in it.
Police One wrote an article highlighting the ways officers can manage and reduce stress they encounter at work and at home. The article focused on healthy eating, leveraging vacation, exercise programs, and focusing on friendship relationships with individuals outside work that will assist in encouraging non-work conversations (Beshears, 2017). This will help to reduce but not eliminate the threat officers faces of trauma/stress symptoms. One way that our organization has developed a process to check the well-being of its officers is through re-enlistment. Our organization requires individuals to be medically screened both physically and mentally every three years to ensure that nothing is going unnoticed. This does not only benefit the organization but also prevents officers from hiding their internal struggles as this is a mandatory program. One thing that I would recommend is for them to increase the frequency of how often the tests are completed rather than only every three years. It would better provide an explanation to whether or not an individual’s mental state is declining or getting better. By our organization participating in this, we have seen officers benefit tremendously as well as folks of the community. Officers are able to maintain the readiness to adequately respond to calls for service and properly serve their people without any threats from internal struggles they may face.
Beshears, M. (2017, March 30). How police can reduce and manage stress. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.policeone.com/stress/articles/322749006-How-police-can-reduce-and-manage-stress/
Stress Reduction Programs for Police Officers: What Needs to Change. (2019, February 01). Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.rti.org/insights/stress-reduction-programs-police-officers-what-needs-change