Beyond the Cuff: Understanding Cumulative Stress Overload




Schoonover, Scott D.

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Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT)



In 2017, the amount of police officer suicides outnumbered the line of duty deaths, 140 to 129 (Heyman, Dill, & Douglas, 2018). Mental health and behavioral health issues are a sensitive topic for law enforcement personnel. The terms mental and behavioral create a negative barrier for officers. Many officers believe that if they seek out help, they will be shunned or “black balled” from the law enforcement world. In July of 2017, the International Association of Fire Chiefs published a document called, “The Yellow Ribbon Report, Under the Helmet: Performing an Internal Size-Up.” This report suggests the use of a new term “Cumulative Stress Overload.” Cumulative Stress Overload is what happens when first responders, who start with the same everyday stressors as the rest of the world, add to their day an additional layer of extreme stress experienced in the line of duty (there are exceptions, of course: mass shootings, bombings, terrorist attacks, etc.). Agencies need to provide debriefings for high stress incidents. Supervisors need to be familiar with their subordinates and should be able to determine if their actions require attention. Agencies should provide an effective program to their officers to assist in preventing mental/behavioral issues that occur from on the job stressors.


Police--Mental Health, Police Psychology