The mental health of police officers has become a topic of concern in recent years. Not only do they have to deal with the stresses of their job, including dealing with victims or people who are suffering from mental health issues but also the danger that comes along with it. Some studies have found that approximately 15% of police officers have PTSD symptoms, which can be caused by traumatic events experienced on the job or off. Can trauma therapy help?
Police Officers Often Have to Deal With Traumatic Events
As a police officer, you are exposed to traumatic events regularly. You may have been the first responder to an accident or crime scene and seen the results of violence firsthand. You might have been involved in an active shooter event and had to take action during the incident. These situations can be emotionally taxing, especially if they are particularly stressful or dangerous.
You may not realize it, but police officers who witness traumatic events or experience violence on the job are at high risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a dangerous event in which serious injury or death occurred or was threatened. It’s normal to feel upset or distressed when something upsetting happens, but with PTSD symptoms come an intense fear of re-experiencing the trauma and difficulty feeling calm and safe.
It’s important to understand that if you’re experiencing signs of PTSD, they don’t mean there is anything wrong with you. They just mean that something in your life has triggered unpleasant memories from your past.
Seeing Trauma Therapy as a Weakness
As a police officer, you’re trained to deal with trauma. You’ve been taught how to deal with death and tragedy as part of your job. However, when it comes time to seek treatment, some officers refuse or don’t feel they need it because they see therapy as a sign of weakness or failure.
Some officers see therapy as a sign that they are not tough enough. They believe that if they admit their problems and seek help, other officers will view them differently or think less of them. Some officers believe, “Asking for help is admitting defeat.”
None of these thought processes or beliefs could be farther from the truth.
Trauma Therapy Helps Decrease PTSD Symptoms
A study found in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment found that trauma therapy helped decrease PTSD symptoms, but the sample size was small. The researchers looked at 22 police officers who had experienced trauma on the job within the last five years.
The participants were given six one-hour sessions to address their symptoms using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). After treatment, they reported lower levels of depression, anger, and hostility as well as fewer intrusive memories associated with their trauma than before they started receiving treatment. It should be noted that this study did not look at the long-term effects of trauma therapy on police officers or other professionals that experience traumatic events regularly.
Trauma therapy can help people who have been in traumatic situations, especially if they get help early. PTSD symptoms, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues are common for someone who has experienced trauma. A therapist can also teach ways to cope with these symptoms and improve relationships.
Many police officers also suffer from physical injuries as a result of the job. A therapist can assist with coping with these injuries as well as any other stressors related to the job such as long hours away from families or colleagues.
What exactly is trauma therapy? It is a form of body-centered therapy that can help people release trauma from their bodies. Trauma therapy isn’t just talk therapy; it goes to the core of what causes symptoms and relieves them by addressing issues outside the brain, such as in muscles and organs. There are many different types: some focus on physical movement and awareness, while others use images or other visual methods to connect with emotions.
Mandatory Mental Health Checks
In recent years, there have been calls for mandatory mental health checks on police officers. However, not everybody agrees with the idea of mandatory mental health checks for police officers. Some police officers are opposed to the idea because they believe it would stigmatize them and make them feel less confident in their work. Some people do support the notion of mandatory mental health checks for law enforcement officials though, including some members of law enforcement themselves.
While this can be a decisive topic there is one thing that we should try to keep in mind. People suffering from PTSD should seek treatment. This is not only for the benefit of themselves but for the people who love and care for that person. We should try to end suffering in whatever way we can and try not to get too wrapped up in the politics of the situation.
The statistics on PTSD in police officers are alarming. There is a need for better treatment options, and trauma therapy could be the answer. There are many different forms of trauma therapy, so it’s important to find one that works best for each individual. Trauma therapy can help improve their quality of life and allow them to continue doing the job they love, while also reducing stress. Police officers are just like everyone else, and they deserve the right to seek treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with your mental health as a police officer or other first responder, give us a call so that we can help. Call Acera Health at (949) 647-4090.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.