You run toward danger while everyone else runs away.
When an assist is dropped, you rush to the scene lights on, sirens blaring.
That takes bravery and courage.
Dropping an assist when things hit the fan on the streets is considered good, sound, safe tactics in law enforcement culture and training–not a sign of weakness or cowardice.
You wouldn’t hesitate to ask for help in the field when you need it.
Are you brave enough to drop an assist for emotional help? Brave enough to support a brother or sister officer facing an emotional or personal crisis?
Do you have the courage to ask another officer if he or she has thought about or planned suicide?
Too many officers run away from their problems rather than toward them.
Time has come to shatter the stigmas, break down the barriers, change the culture that keep officers from seeking, receiving, or giving help.
For too long, officers have considered asking for help a sign of weakness or a sign that they are not capable of doing the job.
You are paid to control chaos. You are expected to solve problems in other peoples’ lives. Because of that job responsibility, officers view the inability to solve their own problems as a mark of failure.
Don’t let shame spoil your game.
Shame keeps many officers from seeking assistance. They feel ashamed that as a police officer they couldn’t handle issues on their own, by themselves, and may appear weak.
By asking for emotional assistance, officers worry that other officers will treat them differently. If they can’t handle their own problems, how are they going to solve problems on the street?
Asking for help can be the healthiest thing you do for yourself. Asking for help doesn’t mean you are “ill.”
Officers worry that seeking help, admitting to an emotional or personal issue, will make them unfit for duty. Officers worry that the department will find out or that their gun will be taken away or they will be removed from their assignment and put on light duty.
Officers fear being labeled that they can’t handle the stresses of the job or can’t deal with problems in their life.
Officers need to see past the shame, see beyond the stigma of appearing weak, and get the help required to turn their lives around.
Asking for help is handling the problem and takes courage and bravery.
Seeking help, another opinion, is handling the problem in a healthy and mature way.
As a police officer you step into situations and keep the peace by calming others who are so wrapped up in their issues that they can’t see through to the other side.
When you are struggling to survive a life crisis, you may not see clearly; your perspective may be distorted because you are close and personally involved with the problem. Seeking advice from another person–a therapist, member of the clergy, trusted friend, mentor, or peer support team member–can help you shine new light on the situation. Gaining this insight can steer you through rough waters.
If confidentiality is your concern, if you fear that using Psych Services will come back and haunt you on the job, then seek a counselor/therapist in the community and pay out of your own pocket.
There will be no paper trail if you don’t file insurance. No credit card receipts or checks clearing the bank if you pay in cash. Many therapists offer a discount or a payment plan for people who choose to pay cash and not use insurance.
Officers worry about being put on medications that will make them unfit for full duty.
New therapies exist that don’t require medication such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), talk therapy, mindfulness training, and exposure therapies.
Cops heal when they talk to other cops.
You have officers’ backs on the street. Do you have their backs when they are hurting emotionally? Depressed? Feeling hopeless? Are you brave enough to reach out to another officer?
Do you make yourself available for other officers to come talk to you?
Research has shown that social support provides healing to those in pain.
Having our pain seen by another, acknowledged, and validated is healing. We do that all the time in our society for the grieving by showing up at funerals and supporting the surviving family members.
We must do that for our brother and sister officers who are struggling or in emotional pain.
Be The Change
Asking for emotional or personal help is a sound tactic.
You may only need an emotional tune-up. Something you would readily do for your automobile, but hesitate to do for yourself.
Are you brave enough to change the stigma attached to officers seeking help?
Let’s make talking to another officer who has survived on the same battlefield as you–both the personal and professional battlefield–an accepted practice.
Let’s make it okay for officers to reach out for an assist.
Any kind of assist.
The change starts with you!!
Local: Houston Officers Peer Assistance (HOPA) staffed by trained retired HPD officers 832-200-3499, HPD Psych Services 832-394-1440, HPD Chaplain 832-596-8083
Hotlines (staffed by cops): Safe Call Now 1-206-459-3020 and Copline 1-800-267-5463
Websites: www.copsalive.com, www.badgeoflife.com, www.woundedbadge.com, www.safecallnow.org, www.wcpr2001.org.
Books: “I Love a Cop” by Dr. Ellen Kirschman, “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin, “Spiritual Survival for Law Enforcement” by Rabbi Cary A. Friedman.
Copyright©2017 Barbara A. Schwartz. All Rights Reserved.
Barbara A. Schwartz writes exclusively about police officers. She is certified in first responder peer support by the Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support (LEAPS) and the International Critical Incident and Stress Foundation (ICISF). She can be reached at bschwartz(at sign)hpou.org.