After a seemingly stressful year for everyone in 2020, this year looks to be a time for healing and creating self-awareness of our own personal mental and physical health needs. When we specifically look to law enforcement, internally there is the predisposition that those working in this field are not able to express these needs in fear of looking or presenting themselves as “weak.” This is an unfortunate view many in law enforcement hold and the act of reaching out to get help or talking to someone when they are personally struggling is stigmatized.
Dan Grupe, associate scientist, Center of Health Mind remarked, “the culture of policing needs to change, especially around emotional awareness. Emotional recognition, realizing when you are exposed to the kind of intense human suffering police officers are exposed to, it is acceptable, understandable, and normal that you would experience some suffering because of that and there could be difficulties.” Mr. Grupe, along with other law enforcement practitioners and leading researchers in the field of stress, delved into current research evidence and practical benefits of targeted stress-management interventions and how they can promote officer mental wellness during a seminar titled, “Protecting Against Stress & Trauma: Research Lessons for Law Enforcement.”
I believe if more agencies began to implement and embrace stress management methods, setup trainings and/or seminars conducted by mental health professionals towards normalizing emotional management and understanding the benefits of counseling and therapy, this could dramatically impact law enforcement for the better and allow them to operate at their optimal mental capacity and would begin to breakdown the misconception of weakness or shame.
Avoiding, downplaying, or not expressing such strong emotional experiences can negatively affect a law enforcement member in the long term, both physically and mentally. It is critical to begin shifting this standard cultural view of policing and allow more feelings of normalcy to arise when law enforcement officials express their needs toward emotional support. It is also imperative to convey to all individuals that emotions do not make you weak, but in fact make you human.