POLICE SUICIDE PREVENTION AND STRESS MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAMS
New, before the trouble begins, placing the responsibility where it belongs–on the individual officer.
Emotional Self-Care (ESC) training must begin at the academies and continue, annually.
It cannot be emphasized enough that a primary mechanism for “making this entire program work” is not only the chief but the Peer Support Officer. Peer Support Officers are the “army” of mental health in law enforcement and this is the opportunity to utilize them to their fullest capacity. They must be fully engaged in:
The selection of Field Training officers
Annual training for squads
Modeling and encouraging annual mental health checks.
This is not a substitute for the traditional “suicide prevention training.” It is a supplement, given separately and designed to create a healthy police force that will not need suicide intervention. While teaching the “signs of suicide” are helpful, it must be remembered that police officers are less likely than the general population to display them. Why? We have taught them to be masters of their emotions and not show them.
Emotional Self-Care Training and mental health checks are designed to keep officers from ever needing suicide prevention. This is the element no one has ever dreamed of implementing. Instead of waiting until an officer is deteriorating, we need to train officers in the art of resilience and maintaining their emotional well-being in the face of the highly toxic environment in which they work. One of the tools they use to accomplish this is the “annual mental health check.”
Suicide prevention, on the other hand, is designed to prevent an actual suicide, in the manner for which it has been designed and traditionally performed. It looks for and attempts to spot the officer “in trouble” and provide the resources and assistance to keep the problems from growing worse.
EMOTIONAL SELF CARE TRAINING – SAMPLE TOPICS
1. BLOCK ONE – UNDERSTANDING REAL MENTAL HEALTH IN LAW ENFORCEMENT
Not only to prevent suicide, but keep officers from becoming suicidal (or in crisis)
The need for accuracy and truth in today’s training programs
The “Crisis of Denial” in the ranks of law enforcement
2. BLOCK TWO — STRESS AND TRAUMA
The difference between “stress” and “trauma”
The impact of “dirty little secrets” in law enforcement
The myths behind mental illness and suicide
3. BLOCK THREE — THE LIFELONG DEVELOPMENT OF RESILIENCE
Maladaptive coping techniques
Critical and Cumulative Trauma
It’s not “all about us” any more.
4. BLOCK FOUR – ANNUAL MENTAL HEALTH CHECKS
NOT A CLASSROOM EXERCISE–should be done with a therapist.
No requirement for reporting
The value to the individual officer (health/ wellness/ other comparisons)
Development of individual resiliency (being prepared for trouble BEFORE it happens!).
Why the checks should be at least annually.
Trauma preparation, stress relief, personal development
The Chief must “lead the way” by setting the example and going in first.
Officer may use EAP or “outside” therapist through own co-pay.
Voluntary, confidential, the department not to know
Self-reliance (standing apart from “the pack”)
A belief one can learn and grow as a result
Commitment to finding meaningful purpose in life
The multiple / adaptable definitions of “Resilience”
Learning your strengths
A belief in one’s ability to affect the outcome
Acceptance (particularly of what one does not like)
Spirituality (which need not be religious)
“ESC: THE OTHER HALF OF POLICE SUICIDE PREVENTION” for more on Emotional Self-Care training.
BLOCK FIVE – PEER SUPPORT ROLE
Peer Support Officers in promoting ESC at the academy and annual ESC squad level training.
Promotion of Drug and Alcohol programs (Private, AA, NarcAnon, law enforcement groups if available)
Promotion of family therapy, other 12-step programs (CODA, etc)
Modeling and promoting annual mental health checks at all ranks.
It’s the critical role of the Peer Support Officer to show that emotional well-being goes full circle–that it is not only about problems when they happen and suicide, but also about maintaining good mental health and continually developing resiliency and tools with which to deal with stresses and trauma BEFORE they happen.
BLOCK SIX – FINDING THE THERAPIST FOR YOU
Minimum licensing and qualifications
Should I insist on a “cop-doc?”
The interview and the first visit
The “Buddy System”
Video, How to Find a Good Therapist
BLOCK SEVEN – (FOR MANAGEMENT)
The administrative/economic advantages of a good emotional health program.
“Suicide Prevention” programs are still necessary – they are the “other half of the formula.”
It’s not “just” about suicide.
Defusing the fear of officers over having total confidentiality.
The absolute need for management support and direct involvement–chiefs must “lead the way.”
It is absolutely critical that the police chief does “lead the way” on all of the above including (especially) the mental health checks. This means actually going to a therapist, discussing the visits with the troops, and encouraging their voluntary participation.