POLICE STRESS MANAGEMENT Training at the Academy
Whether for your academy or squad, finding the right balance of time for an effective presentation is always difficult. Length doesn’t necessarily mean quality, nor does brevity necessarily mean impact. But it must be there.
While this training has great value to veteran officers, we’re convinced that the greatest long-term impact will be in the training we give cadets and how well we can implant in each of them the importance of “prevention” through annual therapy visits. For a department, this training must be “cradle to the grave.”
Stories of trauma are not always “heroic,” the ones that evoke immediate sympathy from the public, that are easy to “admit to.” You know the stories to which we refer–these are the stories of mistakes that may have harmed others, of fears, of self- perceived “cowardice” or failure, of letting down the uniform. These are what they call the “dirty little secrets,” and they begin the first day of the uniform.
Once they graduate, we owe more to our officers than several visits to an EAP counselor when they’re “in trouble and need help.”
They deserve the guidance by which they can maintain career-long mental health to anticipate, be prepared for, and know how to react to stress and trauma before it happens–instead of trying to pick up the pieces afterwards. This means training at the academy–meaningful training that requires the abandonment of precious hours of marching and standing time–and continuing it at least annually throught their career.
Police work can cause suicides, whether we like to admit it or not. But for every suicide, there are a thousand officers out there, still working and silently suffering from undiagnosed PTSD, depression and other anxiety problems. What are we doing for them?
One of the things we already have seen as an advantage is that today’s cadets are far ahead of past generations when it comes to recognizing the validity and value of therapy.
They have seen family members go. They have gone themselves, perhaps during school or with family. They know people who have suffered a variety of mental illnesses, such as depression, and they attach no stigma to it. They are, as we have seen in class after class, receptive to the idea of Emotional Self Care (ESC) Training as a part of police stress management.
Why throw away this opportunity?
It’s up to you.