Police officers are often exposed to traumatic events and situations while protecting the community they serve. Dealing with the unique and inevitable stresses of handling these traumatic situations can impact an officer’s mental health both short-term and long-term. It’s critical for every police department to have mental health resources available to help their officers unpack these stresses, so they can support their officers through the challenges that come with the line of duty. This is why InTime is proud to release InTime Wellness, with data driven fatigue alerts and a health library repository, giving officers the access to different resources when they need them most. Though a rewarding job, law enforcement is a dangerous job both physically and mentally, and police officers must remember to take care of their mental health at every point of their careers.
It’s important to recognize law enforcement as part of the community, and not separate from it, as police officers are our fellow citizens. Just as law enforcement protects the community it serves, both the community and the local police department must also protect their law enforcement officers by providing them with mental health resources and support.
Here at InTime, we believe mental health support is incredibly important for public safety employees. Below are five mental health tips that we believe can help police officers deal with the emotional stresses of their jobs:
1. Join Support Groups
Joining a peer-support group is a great way for police officers to work through their traumas and be surrounded by people who understand what they’re going through. Most people who work in other industries can’t relate to the traumatic situations and events that police officers experience on the job. By joining a peer-support group, police officers can talk to someone who can relate to the traumatic stresses of working in emergency services.
Speaking about traumatic incidents can provide an outlet for the affected officer because fellow officers are best able to relate to their colleagues’ experiences in the line of duty. Peer support groups have been widely accepted as a confidential outlet for police officers to speak in a judgment-free zone, surrounded by those who can relate to their experiences. If you’re a police officer who is willing and able to, consider becoming a peer support officer so you can help a younger officer who may be seeking mental health support.
2. Maintain Your Sleep
Police officers don’t work a regular 9-5 job like other industries and it’s easy for them to become sleep-deprived due to their unique schedules. Junior officers, in particular, often work more night shifts than officers with a higher rank, and it’s important they protect themselves early in their careers by maintaining their sleep to the best of their ability.
Numerous studies have highlighted the link between sleep deprivation and poor mental health. Living with mental health issues can impact how you sleep, and lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health. Without sufficient sleep, police officer performance can be impaired, along with their physical and mental well-being.
In order to improve sleep habits, police officers can try to schedule their sleep routine once their shift schedule is released. This can help them ensure they get at least eight hours of sleep per night so they can stay rested both physically and mentally.
3. Stay Physically Active
Physical fitness can only increase the effectiveness of a police officer’s duties. Being physically active also has a huge potential to enhance an individual’s well-being, as many studies have shown the connection between physical fitness and positive mental health. According to this study, the harmful effects of chronic stress are decreased in police officers who maintain high levels of physical fitness. Benefits of exercising regularly include feeling a sense of achievement, an increase in focus and motivation, less mental fatigue, and more.
If you’re a police officer, try to make time for yourself to maintain your physical fitness at least four times a week. This can include a brisk walk, run, half an hour at the gym or other activities that will boost your endorphins while maintaining your physical fitness.
4. Do Your Best to Leave Your Work at Work
This tip is often easier said than done, regardless of your industry of work. However, leaving your work at work is especially important in law enforcement and other public safety industries. As a police officer, take the time you need to disconnect from your workday when you finish your shift so you can be physically and mentally present with both your friends and family and yourself.
Give yourself time to spend with loved ones, or do an activity that you enjoy so you can focus on something other than the stresses you may have experienced while on shift.
5. Recognize the Valuable Role You and Your Fellow Officers Play in Your Community
Never forget to feel prideful for the role you play in protecting your community. Police officers should always remind themselves of the invaluable role they play in the communities they serve. Remember that despite the challenges, you’re making a difference in your community and you’re protecting those who need it the most.
The bottom line
We hope these five tips will help you stay mentally healthy both at work and in your personal life. For more information on law enforcement and mental health, listen to this webinar to learn the underlying causes related to the mental health challenges police officers face.