Health, Wellness: Why We Must Do More for Today’s Law Enforcement

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Mental health has long been overlooked, but perhaps, nowhere more than in law enforcement. One can hardly imagine what it would be like to face their daily challenges, dealing with crimes, atrocities, and the possibility of death every day.

Today's law enforcement is burdened by a constant concern for safety that never ebbs, with unending violence and unyielding aggression making way for anxiety and depression that can quickly eat you up inside.


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Dealing with this kind of trauma day in and day out is incredibly taxing on today's law enforcement. So, they take these demons home with them, wrestling with them at night in somber slumber before returning the next day to confront them all over again. It takes a toll over time.

The Bureau of Justice says that mental health calls are "among the most complex and time-consuming for law enforcement." In response, many departments have created a Police-Mental Health Collaboration, or PMHC, based program that works with law enforcement officers on appropriately and safely responding to mental illness-related calls.


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While helpful, the program fails to account for one thing: the officers' mental health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that police officers experience much higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and burnout than the general population. Worse, NAMI studies show that nearly 1 in 4 officers experience suicidal ideation at least once in their lifetime, and yet less than 20% seek help.

When more police officers die today from suicide than in the line of duty, we are doing something very, very wrong.

It is what Police1 calls a mental health crisis in law enforcement, and current understaffing and anti-police rhetoric sure is not helping to lighten the load.


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"While each police officer racing to gunfire or other traumas must deal with the residual effect on his mind and body, it remains doubtful if the media who reshape those stories will give it a second thought," said law enforcement officer Michael Letts, founder of  InVest USA, an organization committed to supplying law enforcement with bulletproof vests. 

Poor mental health can also quickly impact job performance, something that officers cannot afford to risk in the line of duty. As a result, it not only further endangers their lives, but it can also have a profound impact on overall public safety when officers may not be able to respond to emergencies as needed optimally.

But the door to mental health swings both ways. Civilians with mental health issues are 16 times more likely to be killed by a police officer.

To make a difference to both police and the rest of us, we must be open to creating effective change, but first, we have to admit that what we have been doing is not working.


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​​Lena Muhtadi Borrelli spent time in finance, marketing, and hospitality with a diverse professional background before settling into full-time life as a freelance writer. She has written for TIME, Investopedia, MSN, Bankrate, Onerent, and TV Guide.

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