Too often we confuse “stress” with “trauma.”Stress happens, but trauma happens TO you.Stress is an expected part of life, good or bad, and can be managed by such things as exercise, moderation in habits such as alcohol, deep breathing and even therapy.Trauma, on the other hand, either runs over you like a bus or compiles over time to make for an unbearable burden that must be treated by competent therapy and even medications.
The mission of Badge of Life is to lessen the impacts of both stress and trauma, the latter of which in particular can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide.
Our studies have revealed the following statistics when it comes to suicides within the police ranks:
2008 police suicides:141
2009 police suicides:143
2012 police suicides:126
In 2012, the average age of a police suicide victim was 42 and time on the job was 16 years.91 percent were males, 63 percent were single, and 11 percent were veterans.
High as these numbers are (well above the national average for suicides), they are only the tip of the iceberg.For every police suicide, there are at least 1,000 police officers suffering from some symptoms of PTSD.How do we go about addressing this problem?By starting at the top with the police chief and, simultaneously, starting at the bottom with the lowest ranking police officer.The key issue is not suicide—it is “mental health” at all ranks.The answer lies in the implementation of annual, voluntary “mental health checks” with a therapist of the individual’s choice, whether it be a departmental psychologist or a therapist "outside" the department.“Voluntary” is the key.The purpose of such checks, which must remain completely confidential from the department, is to review the past year, see what has worked well—and what can be improved.This is the way to reduce suicides and is the strongest guarantee that an officer can continue a healthy career without stress and anxiety—after all, an officer who is distracted is a danger to himself and the officers who are relying on him.
It is time to de-stigmatize mental health and well being in law enforcement.Wanting to reduce suicides is one thing—accomplishing it is another.It can only happen when mental health becomes a priority and all ranks accept the means as necessary to accomplishing the end.
THE "POLICE MENTAL HEALTH CHECK"
Voluntary. Confidential--go outside to a private therapist if you prefer.
Just DO IT—at least once a year, and BEFORE you "need help!"
The Badge of Life Police Mental Health program is more than suicide prevention--it's about officer safety and a long life.
These important steps apply to all emergency responders--police, firefighters, medical and dispatchers.
Saying, "Get help when you need it" isn't enough any more. We need to say, "Get help BEFORE you need it.”
It's preparing you for trouble before you get into crisis.
It's voluntary. Like seeing the doctor or the dentist once a year, it's seeing a therapist of your choice, in-house or "outside" of the department, to review the past year, look for vulnerabilities, build on your strengths, and develop a set of tools you can turn to when you DO need help.