As Law Enforcement officers continue to be bombarded with traumatic incidents on a daily basis, the number of officer suicides continues to rise. In 2016, 108 law enforcement officers committed suicide in the United States (Kulbarsh, 2017). As these numbers increase, Police Departments, Communities and Local Governments must start taking a more proactive role in managing their officer’s mental health.
Suicide, while a key problem among Law Enforcement, is just the tip of the ice berg. The real issues lie beneath the surface in the form of PTSD, Alcohol Abuse, Drug Abuse and marital problems.
Today almost 19% of the law enforcement population admits to suffering from some form of PTSD (Kulbarsh, 2016). Currently a large majority of these struggling officers admit to using inappropriate coping mechanisms that include “alcohol abuse, substance abuse, anger, impatience, violence and arguments with loved ones” (Larned, 2010, p. 66).
Departments need to start by removing the stigma of Mental Health related illnesses in law enforcement by creating an open line of communication then implement mandatory annual mental health checks, provide peer support groups and voluntary counseling services. These types of services will help our officers cope with the traumatic incidents they deal with daily and create healthier happier more successful officers in the long term.