Behind the Badge: The Trauma, Treatment, and Hope for Police Officers

When major disasters strike in your community, who are you going to call? That’s right, the Police. No matter the problem, no matter the circumstances, a uniformed officer from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) will arrive on scene to serve and protect. But when the dust settles often times policingall that is left are the memories, traumatic experiences, and stress that must be dealt with. Often times, the men and women who put their lives on the line daily to help others will struggle to process the trauma which frequently leads to anxiety, depression, and even suicide. So where can Americas finest turn for help? The Department of Justice along with the National Alliance on Mental Illness published a report titled Preparing for the Unimaginable which addresses these issues and more.

The report is divided into three parts. Part one focuses on “Why Mental Wellness Matters to You and Your Agency” through understanding trauma and resiliency. It also recounts real stories, wisdom, knowledge from officers and their spouses who serve in the field. Part two discusses “Preparing for a Mass Casualty Event” and makes recommendations for “Enhancing Resiliency in Your Agency Today”. It provides recommendations for officer wellness through work groups, education, peer support, and psychological services. Finally, part three is centered on “Managing a Mass Casualty Event and Its Aftermath” by offering immediate short term, and long term approaches to managing trauma and the challenges associated. Also, the report includes handouts and resources where additional information on the subject matter can be found. Overall, this report is a must read for those who are in law enforcement and emergency medical services and for those who have loved ones who serve.

For more information please see Shifts, Extended Work Hours, and Fatigue: An Assessment of Health and Personal Risks for Police Officers and visit the Homeland Security Digital Library (some documents may require HSDL login).