Below is an article from Blue Courage that was featured in the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators online publication.
By Blue Courage, LLC
“Sometimes in this job we are involved in things that can take over our emotions and our thoughts. Tonight was one of those nights. I have shed a tear, this is something that some don’t understand about us, we are people like everyone else and things affect us!” read a recent tweet from a police officer.
Our first responders often place themselves in harm’s way during the course of just one shift. Regular training and education to maintain readiness and enhance officer knowledge and skills are essential to minimize risk and increase the odds that our public safety personnel will not simply survive in this career, but thrive in it.
While current officer preparation provides necessary training and education, it is too often incomplete. A holistic approach to training and education is necessary. Statistically, officers are more likely to suffer from the mental and emotional dangers and risks associated with the profession than physical injury. It is imperative that public safety training include resilience, health and wellness, mission and purpose, and moral courage.
A study done by CareerCast ranked police officer as one of the top ten most stressful jobs. In the short-term, stress can be helpful in getting things done and rising to a specific challenge; however, the long-term effects of chronic stress can and will often result in many physical and mental health manifestations.
With greater scientific understanding of the impact of stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), organizations are increasingly focused on combatting this challenge, though often with very limited or insufficient resources.
The trauma that officers face increases stress levels, which increases the toxic neurochemicals that are released into the body. In addition, the heightened vigilance that officers experience constantly is linked to an increased risk of PTSD, which could affect officer decision-making in fast-moving, high-pressure situations. According to Blue H.E.L.P., an estimated 150,000 officers show up to work with symptoms of PTSD. Blue H.E.L.P. also reported that in 2019 alone there were 225+ known suicides.
Not enough is being done within and for policing to educate those who serve. Not only is there effective treatment for those times of crisis, but there are proven and effective ways to prevent and reduce those moments, as well. Prevention must be the highest priority, not just the intervention when an officer is in crisis. Every agency should intentionally strengthen our men and women so that they are better prepared for the traumatic incidents or the chronic slow drip of corrosion that too often destroy the soul.
Science and research now reveal that resilience is something that can be learned and developed. For example, mindful breathing techniques help to quiet the mind and regulate emotional responses and, when practiced on a regular basis, assist the body’s reaction with reflex regulation when encountering a stressful or high-anxiety situation, allowing one to maintain a clear train of thought and remain calm for a longer period of time.
Our first responders deserve the best education to learn about the importance of taking care of their well-being: physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Officers must be taught to recognize what they are experiencing and respond in a healthy way. They must be provided the best practices and tools that can amplify their readiness — to be taught how to more effectively respond to the world that the profession thrusts at them and regulate the biological response to trauma that all humans have. Our people need to recognize when they are on auto-pilot and begin embracing intentional awareness. Understanding the power of mindfulness vs. mindlessness and behaving reflectively vs. reflexively is critical to this profession. When our public safety professionals neglect the nurturing of the mind, body, emotions, and spirit, they deplete their capacity for optimal performance.
Blue Courage, LLC is dedicated to providing educational services to our first responders. While partnering with several thought leaders, we are committed to providing the most impactful, sustainable educational experiences possible. We are passionate about elevating our public safety professionals and strengthening their capacity to embrace the high calling of the nobility of the profession.