Police Culture - Ending The Stigma
In police culture, a major obstacle that impedes the maintenance of psychological health is the stigma attached to asking for help.
The law enforcement culture values strength, self-reliance, controlled emotions, and competency in handling personal problems.
These values discourage help-seeking behavior, and there is a sense of having lost control by asking someone else to help fix the problem. If these values are held too rigidly, an officer can feel weak, embarrassed, and like a failure for seeking help from others.
One study found that stigma and help-seeking attitudes were inversely related. In other words, a person facing a higher level of stigma for seeking help was less likely to have a help-seeking attitude.
This generates concern for officers who unconditionally conform to the traditional values of law enforcement culture. They will be more likely to avoid seeking help, even when distressed, and potentially pay the price of detrimental health effects.
Despite making significant strides in its response to the mentally ill, law enforcement lags behind when those in pain are their own.
Fearful of being considered weak or untrustworthy, concerned that seeking help will lead to sanctions or loss of professional opportunities, and wary of how they will be perceived by a public and media with whom many officers and departments already experience strained relations, officers are often unlikely to seek help even privately - doubting their treatment will remain confidential or be understood.
Their fears may not be without merit; some departments have policies requiring mental health treatment, especially if it involves medication, be reported to administrators who may only see liability issues. Even when that is not the case, the notoriously gossipy nature of a lot of agencies, along with regressive attitudes in existence, means stigmatization is a real threat.
The Colorado Police Officers Foundation is aware of these road blocks to necessary help and we provide a confidential referral path to treatment and counseling.
We have a team of professionals that specialize in the treatment of work related mental health issues in policing. The Foundation is partnered with two licensed mental health counselors, substance abuse counselors, and several highly experienced peer support officers. All of our referrals in this area are confidential.
If you are in need of help or interested in finding out more go to our "Contact" page. Thank you for your support.