“Our nation’s law enforcement officers have one of the toughest jobs in the nation. Every day, they risk their lives to keep the peace and protect our neighborhoods from criminals. Due to the stressful nature of their occupations, law enforcement officers need better access to mental health services to improve their health and help alleviate the anxiety that is a byproduct of their jobs.”
-House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
In case you’re too busy, here’s a quick summary:
- Police work is stressful, dangerous and often stigmatized leading to a variety of physical and mental health problems among officers.
- It is our responsibility and honor, as Congress, to help protect our men and women in blue.
- So we passed legislation directing the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to develop resources to equip local law enforcement agencies to address mental health challenges faced by officers.
Police work is stressful, dangerous and often stigmatized. On a daily basis, any officer might come face to face with the worst humankind has to offer. They must make split second decisions between life and death while margins for error are slim and unforgiving.
Did you know that almost 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life? In fact, more police officers die by suicide than by homicide (2.3 times more to be exact). The ugly truth for our men and women in blue is that their mental deterioration is dismissed as an unalarming byproduct of their job.
Research has shown time and again that police officer occupational stress is directly related to higher rates of heart disease, divorce, sick days taken, alcohol abuse, and major psychological illnesses such as acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety disorder.
To add further insult to injury, many police officers face a culture of silence and disregard when it comes to mental health challenges. While they are trained to safely and effectively interact with people suffering from mental illness, many of our officers aren’t given the care and attention they need to cope with their own trauma.
This needs to change.
“Our officers wear protective clothing and other equipment to keep themselves safe from physical harm, but these officers also face challenges to their mental health and well-being. Unlike many other professions, sometimes you can’t leave the job at the office.”
This is why House Republicans passed the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017, introduced by Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN).
The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act
This legislation directs the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to develop resources to equip local law enforcement agencies to address mental health challenges faced by officers. It also makes grants available to initiate peer mentoring pilot programs, develop training for mental health providers specific to law enforcement mental health needs, and support law enforcement officers by studying the effectiveness of crisis hotlines and annual mental health checks.
Many police departments across our nation have instituted mental health programs as preventative measures to protect their officers’ mental health. These programs have proved to have significant, and successful results. The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act further supports our police men and women by providing the necessary resources to address the serious challenges many officers face as a result of their job.
We are proud to stand behind our men and women in blue. It is our responsibility and honor to help protect those who protect us all.
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