You say you are fine.. until you are not.

basic training law enforcement mental health preparation Jan 15, 2022

 You say you are fine, until you are not. 

I was conducting 'Wellness Basic Training' recently, and a common issue arose for more than one individual. And I believe it's a familiar story among entirely too many law enforcement officers.

Eyes wide open.

They said they went into the job with "eyes wide open" and knew the job would be difficult and stressful. What I mean by that is that you go into it thinking you will be fine, that you will be able to manage the difficulty and stress.

More than once in the last week, I heard officers say it was around year ten that they realized that the job was significantly affecting their lives. The stress affected not only their job performance but their entire lives. 

For me, I felt it starting around year four. I started feeling the adverse effects of what I had seen and the need to assume the worst in all people to survive another day. And I didn't know if that was how I wanted to live life.

In my instance, I started looking into another professional path. Unfortunately, for too many law enforcement officers, it means alcoholism, uncontrolled anger, burnout, obesity, alcohol or drug abuse, or even suicide.

The recent deaths of the two Deputies in St. Lucie County, FL, highlight how extreme this stress can be.

Prepare for the "fight after the fight."

I believe that at some point in their career, all law enforcement officers realize that they need some extra help, but for whatever reason, they say nothing.

One reason for this could be a negative stigma surrounding asking for help. However, another reason is that officers are not taught how to take care of themselves well enough, often enough, or are not at all.

In the Fall of 2021, I met an officer from Idaho who works at an agency that was very supportive in her request to take time off to mentally recover from some very negative experiences she had experienced on the job. However, she realized she didn't know how to take care of herself once she got home.

She spent HOURS and HOURS and HOURS in training to prepare for 'the fight.' First from the academy and her field training program (patrol), and later went through advanced training as a K-9 officer and female SWAT operator.

However, no one trained her for the "fight after the fight."

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Here is an analogy. We are taught proper dental hygiene when we are growing up. We are taught to brush our teeth every day, morning and night. If you are really great, you even floss before going to bed. We do this to PREVENT tooth decay, cavities and gum disease.

Imagine if we didn't start brushing teeth until the cavities and decay started. How effective would that be? 

The same 'preventative' concept applies to regular, daily wellness training related to your mental health. It is a preventative tool. Does it mean you will never have problems? No. Nor does brushing and flossing prevent cavities or crooked teeth.

Sometimes we need a little help to remove some issues or get a realignment. 

It is the same with daily wellness training. You need additional resources to help process all of the stress from the job. These helpful, additional resources will give you the tools to effectively and happily live and function, both on and off the job. 

Come early and stay late.

This type of training applies from the rookie stage to retirement and beyond. Another officer in the 'Wellness Basic Training" Course (a Sgt. in the Training Bureau) stressed the importance of starting at the 'ground level,' with the recruits in the academy. Teach the tools, techniques and habits of a solid wellness routine from the beginning. Imagine how empowering this would be to rookies as they start their jobs.  

An officer with a solid wellness routine will feel more 'in control' and have tools in his "mental toolkit" to process the stress.

Don't wait another day. Don't wait to do something for yourself.

Do it now. Start today. 

I promise you'll find more happiness in your daily life.  

 

 

 

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