Ongoing Series: A Sound Mind...A look at Mental Health and Law Enforcement

police mental health
police mental health
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 8:08 AM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -Recently, a man committed suicide with his own firearm in front of the Presque Isle Police Department. The severity of that incident can definitely have an impact on the mental health of police and other staffers on duty that day. Shawn Cunningham reports on the resources available to help law enforcement cope with traumatic events.

Cops are used to putting criminals in jails, behind bars...But what happens when people struggling with mental crises can’t escape the PRISON of the mind. The day to day job of being a police officer can be challenging, and its critical to a person’s mental health to decompress all the stress. In that vein, PI Deputy Chief Chris Hayes there are a number of resources available to law enforcement...

PI Deputy Chief Chris Hayes, PIPD

“law enforcement are legendary for keeping themselves very private and putting up a very good front lucky enough we have officers who are trained to look for those signs peer support is very important in law enforcement especially us as a smaller agency we’re always watching out for each other and then its pulling that person aside that one on one and then trying to get them that help as much as possible.”

Shawn Cunningham NO STANDUP

Deputy Chief Hayes says the issue of mental health problems has become increasingly prevalent...

“Covid has added to the mental stress of people so much everyday life politics everything has taken a toll on the human body and the human mind.”

And police aren’t immune to that...

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According to the latest law enforcement statistics by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), police officers report much higher rates of depression, burnout, PTSD, and anxiety than the general population. In addition, almost 25% of police officers have experienced suicidal ideation at least once in their lifetime.

But Deputy Chief Hayes says to address that, more mental health resources, training and the implementation of on the job practices with a focus on mental health continue to serve as positive protocols... in promoting overall wellness of police officers...in mind body and spirit....

“critical incident teams and incident intervention teams that wasn’t even taught at the academy never even heard of it that really started about 2014-15 and I would say nowadays we are dealing with incidents where we’re using that kind of training on a daily basis.”

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And he says other issues like

-an increased drug problem in communities statewide,

-a challenge in resources in getting people adequate treatment for substance use,

-and reduced staffing in mental health practitioners

-and even staffing shortage in some police departments throughout Maine...

All these issues can only compound challenges with mental health....

“I do think that the stress is adding more and more to law enforcement and I hear people talking about maybe its time to get out but also its their calling and I find that even though they say that their still hanging in there they still wanna serve the public as much as they can...”

Shawn Cunningham, NS 8.

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