As we close the month of September, we recognize National Law Enforcement Suicide Awareness Day.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there are an average of 130 suicide deaths per day. The number of suicides amongst law enforcement officers and first responders is unprecedented. While this sadness seems to spin beyond our control there is reason to be hopeful. Now we can acknowledge the cumulative effect of stress and trauma in a law enforcement career. And, with that, the resources available today, from training and outreach to peer led and professional support providers is ever expanding.
If you know someone who is struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out – you might save a career, a marriage or even a life.
Behind the Badge Foundation
National Suicide Hotline – dial 988
National Survivors of Blue Suicide
Code 4 Northwest
Safe Call Now
“There is a lot of noise and chaos in our world. How do we filter through the noise to remember our foundations? Gravity podcast explores the relationships, experiences, and values that keep us grounded in a chaotic world”
Click HERE to listen to the latest Episode of
Gravity Podcast – Marriage Mondays
“Tune in every other Monday to listen to Jaimie and Chris unpack over two decades of marriage. It is going to get messy! You are guaranteed to laugh and maybe even cry.”
As we move further into the month of May and many of our agencies, officers and families feel increased emotional response as recognitions happen across the state and the nation in preparation for Peace Officers’ Memorial Day on May 15th. We hope you’ll be intentional in taking time to be aware of not only your own mental health and wellbeing – but that of your work partners and your loved ones at home.
Take a look at this article for one such break – be well and take care of one another.
How to assess mental health in your EMS partner, yourself (ems1.com)
If I was going to start with one offering for new and seasoned law enforcement officer wellness and an exceptional resource for their overall family health, it would be this – “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” by Dr Kevin Gilmartin. My agency gives a copy of this book to every new hire – it is the gold standard, remaining one of the pre-eminent offerings for law enforcement emotional/psychological awareness.
The book’s foreword starts, “If you’re a cop, you’re going to love this book. It could change your life. It might even save your life, your career, your home life. If you’re not a cop, you’ll still love it because the ideas in this book could certainly apply to you too. Maybe you’re in a relationship with a cop…”
“Dr Kevin Gilmartin is eminently qualified to write about emotional survival for law enforcement because he lived it, studied it, researched it, and taught it.”
Anyone who is, loves or wants to support a law enforcement officer and/or their family will benefit from the full-length book.
In this podcast from “The Squad Room”, Dr Gilmartin talks Leadership, Health and Wellness
120: Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement with Dr. Kevin Gilmartin | The Squad Room
Once you finish that – I encourage you to listen to more episodes from “The Squad Room” with Garrett Te Slaa. There are so many great topics for cops, families and friends.
On behalf of all of us here at Behind the Badge Foundation – be well, take care of yourself and look out for each other.
Stand with pride my friends –
Detective Meg DiBucci
Programs and Services Director
“Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” by Dr Kevin Gilmartin
“The Squad Room” Episode 120
Read their latest article about the
2021 Washington State Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony
Please note: Since this article was published it has been determined that the event on June 4th will be the Peace Officers Ceremony only. The Medal of Honor Ceremony will occur in the fall per COVID-19 restrictions.
By Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D.
Therapy won’t make you perfect, but it will help you live a wiser, happier life.
In my last post, I wrote that fear about confidentiality is high on the list of reasons cops don’t reach out for help. But there are other reasons like stigma, shame, or the distorted belief that only weak people have problems. Here’s what I know after 40 years of counseling LEOs: to need help is to be human, not weak. And problems are more easily borne when shared with someone you trust.
Police work is hard, always has been. And it’s getting harder all the time. Being a cop will change you. How could it not given that most cops will see more cruelty and tragedy in the first few years of their career than the rest of us will see in a lifetime. But—I want to shout this at the top of my lungs— it doesn’t have to damage you. Not if you learn to protect yourself and your family, and live with resilience. What does resilience mean? It means the ability to struggle well and bounce back in the face of adversity. This is different from those familiar, yet faulty notions of invulnerability, self-sufficiency, and rugged individualism that run rampant throughout law enforcement culture.
As a cop, you are probably a natural self-reliant, problem solver who is reluctant to burden others with your problems. Certainly, you prefer to talk things over with a peer or a family member before going to a “shrink.” You might even talk yourself out of going for help by worrying that you are making things worse than they really are, your problems are trivial compared to others, and you don’t want to burden the therapist who will probably run from the room the minute you start telling it like it is. This kind of stinky self-talk is like losing the pain in your tooth on the way to the dentist. Rest assured, the pain will come back, only now you need a new tooth and antibiotics instead of a simple filling.
Why to go? Some people start therapy because they are interested in personal growth. Others start because [READ MORE]
In honor of Women’s History Month…
Here are a few articles highlighting Women in Law Enforcement in Seattle and Beyond
Women in Early Seattle by Seattle.Gov
Seattle’s First Female Officers on the Beat by HistoryLink.org
10 Trailblazing U.S. Law Women by MentalFloss.com
Enjoy the fun historical read!
Photo: Sylvia Hunsicker, undated
Courtesy Seattle Police Department
I came across this article in the NY Times. It is a well written article about the Law Enforcement Officer that was one the original founders of the Make A Wish Foundation.
Click HERE or the picture below to read more…
By Ellen Kirshman, Ph.D
What you need to know about confidentiality: when you have it, when you don’t.
I’ve been blogging about police and first responders with Psychology Today for a couple of years. My most popular post was about cops and PTSD. On the first day of 2021, I saw a comment on that post made in response to an earlier comment left by a reader who had clearly been through a lot in his time as a cop.
“…therapists are not your friend and really could care less about you as a person. Never ever talk to them. They are liberal scumbags or they wouldn’t be in that career. Rely on close friends.”
I can only imagine the writer of this unpleasant comment has been somehow harmed by an incompetent therapist. I’m sorry for that. Just like cops, therapists range from great to ghastly. And just like cops, it isn’t fair to paint us all with the same brush.
So, how do you find a therapist you can trust if you need one? Not because you’re broken and need fixing, but because the psychological strain of working as a cop in a pandemic and a wave of anti-police sentiment may be causing you or your family problems or triggering old issues.
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the reason cops are resistant to consult a clinician. Top of the list were understandable concerns about confidentiality. So here are some things you need to know about the protections and limitations of the client/therapist relationship. [READ MORE]
By Ellen Kirshman, Ph.D
Wisdom from a pioneer cop about connecting to your family during hard times.
Dr. Al Benner was a retired police captain, a pioneer in police psychology, co-founder of the West Coast Trauma Retreat for first responders with traumatic stress, and a mentor to many “cop docs” who followed him into psychology. He was also my friend.
Al died of cancer in 2009. He wrote the following words a long time ago. I repeat them here, in this time of turmoil and social unrest, because they are as true today as they ever were.
“To function effectively in our job, you must annihilate, smother, and suppress normal emotions like fear, anger, revulsion, and even compassion. To do otherwise is to invite overwhelming doubt or hesitancy when decisive action is required. The penalty for your achieved competence is a mindset that might as well be a foreign language to your social contemporaries. We are…victims of our own success. When these same normal and appropriate emotions…surface in personal relationship, we automatically shut down and wonder why, over time, the people we care about the most complain that we are aloof, cold, and uncommunicative.”
The key to riding out the current wave of bitterness and division is to stay connected to your friends and families. To do this, many of you have to stop doing what you have previously done (or been taught to do) to manage strong emotions; suck it up, withdraw, isolate, and push away the very people who can help you. Many of you are angry. Many of you feel betrayed and helpless. Your family feels these things too, but not in the same way you do, unless they’re also cops. Take the time to listen. Don’t dismiss them, discount their feelings, or offer false … [READ MORE]