How Mental Health Hinders Cops and How We Can Best Aid It

Police officers choose to take part in an extremely traumatic career path because of a calling. What we are just not beginning to understand is exactly how traumatic the path is. There have been a number of studies in fairly recent years about the damage that trauma can do to police officers that are constantly  thrown into stressful and harmful environments.

The first big study was done in 1999 by Stevens and Long. They found that 12-35% of their participants exhibited PTSD behaviors or do have been diagnosed with PTSD (Craddock & Telesco, 2021). They also found that over 20% of participants suffer from sleep issues including nightmares (Craddock & Telesco, 2021). We are aware of the lasting damages done by getting a lack of adequate sleep, especially when it comes to split-second decisions that are required when in law enforcement.

As the years progressed, police officers were shown to have increased levels of substance abuse and suicide than that of the general population. One of the most traumatic experiences for police officers were for those involved in the September 2001 attacks. There have been numerous follow-up studies done on them and found that they had higher than average PTSD symptoms than other cops across the country (Craddock & Telesco, 2021). They also, if they were physically able to, went back to work which would compound their already experienced stressors into more as more situations arose.

In the research conducted by Tina B. Craddock and Grace Telesco in 2021, they had many research questions and hypotheses they were searching for answers of, but their findings were interesting.

They found that the longer someone is in law enforcement, the worse that their mental health and physical health is (Craddock & Telesco, 2021). These are exacerbated by the decreased perceptions of law enforcement is today’s society. Their symptoms of their decreased mental illnesses could present as more violent towards civilians or prisoners they interact with, rash decisions, and increased aggravation and possible violence towards family. These are many things that make a cop unfit for duty. They did not find a correlation between increased years on the job and increased alcohol abuse.

When it comes to aiding the police officers who are suffering from increased mental health disorders, we need to put as many tactics in action as possible. The main tactic is to have places where officers feel safe talking about their experiences (Buckhannon, 2023). This, even though a great idea, is easier said than done. A lot of police officers do not want to be involved with therapy of any kind due to its perception of being broken or weak. Instead of having a therapist at the station or that works with police officers, I think there needs to be a public hangout where police officers can meet up with each other and talk like friends. Some of the best therapy is hanging out with people that understand what you’ve been through and who you can blow off steam with. On a policy level, there needs to be mandated mental health care provided for police officers if they choose to take them up on the service. With this, there needs to be an additonal budget allotment so that the police officers do not see it as taking away other resources that they could be having. These are just limited examples of all of the things that need to be done to ensure that our police force works at their highest capacity. Until law enforcement, policy makers, and the government all work together to attack this threat to our law enforcement officers, this pandemic will continue to evolve and will continue to harm people in law enforcement, their families, and the communities as a whole.


Buckhannon, C. M. (2023, April 4). How to help officers’ traumatic stress. Police1.

Craddock, T. B., & Telesco, G. (2021, November 9). Police stress and deleterious outcomes: Efforts towards Improving Police Mental Health. Journal of police and criminal psychology.

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  1. 9/11 was so traumatic, especially to first responders. I always keep in mind that officers see people at their worst every day. That is a lot to deal with and witness. This was an excellent post, thanks for sharing!

  2. This is a very refreshing post! It is truly sad that a high stress career such as policing has such a stigma about mental health and self care. I hope this changes in the future.

  3. This was a wonderful post to read. You hit all the major points in a stressful law enforcement career and you provided great solutions to help and fix those problems. I really enjoyed your idea about creating a hangout where police officers can go and just talk with other police officers and can kind of relax in that safe space. That would be an amazing idea that I would love to see happen one day. Great job with this!

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