Thursday, August 16, 2012


Recently I have been seeing a therapist for anxiety.  My anxiety is something I’ve dealt with my entire life.  Oddly enough I don’t have any anxiety issues about HF’s job.  My anxiety has to do primarily with social situations.
Seeing a therapist has greatly enhanced my personal life.  I feel like I am taking on this problem head on and making some real progress.  As I’ve been meeting with my therapist, often our conversations turn to HF and what he does for a living.  This has gotten me thinking on more than one occasion about the need for police officers to seek counseling.  In the past HF has dealt with some nasty things and was required by his supervisors to see a psychologist for critical incident stress debriefings. This, combined with my current therapy situation, has caused me to ask the question, wouldn’t all police officers benefit from regular counseling? 

I recognize that many officers legitimately don’t need therapy in the sense that they have something wrong with them psychologically, but wouldn’t it make sense for someone in such a high stress, high risk profession to have regular checkup s done much in the same way that they have regular PT testing or physicals?
I wonder if any departments out there do actually require a mental health checkup at least once a year.

HF has told me in the past that, in some departments he is familiar with, there is an attitude among the officers that seeing a therapist is a sign of weakness.  I suspect that this is a nationwide attitude held by many officers.   
Law enforcement is an inherently stressful profession.  Police officers not only have to deal with the public in high risk situations but they also frequently have to deal with their own departments and the unique stresses that each individual department presents.  Then there’s the stresses presented by family and just life in general.  How do officers find time to take care of themselves when they’re so busy taking care of others?  Most of the officers I interact with through this blog and in my life have healthy coping mechanisms.  But thanks to Hollywood, we all know the popular coping mechanisms for cops are alcohol, drugs, sex, violence, and the general perversion of the moral fabric of society.

How do you cope with the stress of being a cop?
Do you see a therapist?

Do you shoot stuff up with your gun?
Are you a fitness junkie?

Do you go out for drinks after every shift?
It is not my intention to judge people’s coping mechanisms.  I am genuinely curious how you guys and gals do it.  I’ve also included a poll on the sidebar about therapy if you wouldn’t mind participating.


Sweet_Southern_Comfort said...

I believe all departments should make it mandatory to go to counseling at least once a year. I know my husband could benefit from it. We are starting therapy in 2 weeks because of my anxiety from his job (and my job too). There have unfortunately been too many incidents of officers getting shot in our city here lately. It's made me nervous- especially when my husband's department is the main target of a lot of gangs around here. They are even targeting wives and children of officers now. I had to take the thin blue line sticker off my SUV- there are too many crazy people who hate cops and I can't put my son's life at risk to show my pride in my husband.

Slamdunk said...

Glad to hear that you found some help Mrs. Fuzz. Many of the officers I worked with just built walls and only let law enforcement-friendly people in. It was very easy to become jaded with the public and label anyone and everyone as a source of stress. I was very fortunate to meet my spouse who kept me grounded.

Hollywood said...

There is an “experimental” program in some areas of the NYPD that is taking an hour after every shift and locking the shift in the basement. They are required to go down there, talk about their shift, things that happen through the day, and get everything out in the open. In the few short months that they have been doing this, use of force reports have gone down, sick time has been reduced, and the officers report being happier.

I believe that the old mentality of “asking for help is weak” is on its way out the door, and quickly. I think that we officers have come to realize that it’s not normal to see death and destruction every day, it’s not normal to deal with the worst of the worst day in and day out, it’s not normal to go from zero to 160 in half a heartbeat, but it is normal to need to talk about that stuff. There is simply no room for that old school mentality in today’s police force.

As a general rule, I don’t tell my wife much of anything that goes on at work. I believe that there are two different people living inside every law enforcement officer out there, up to and including myself. There is a part of me that she will never know which has to do what he has to do, just so that her and the part that she does know, can coexist in this great world. In order for all of this to happen, she has to let this guy that she doesn’t know do what he does. I also think that it is hardwired into every LEO to protect all persons, especially those who we care about. Within that is a need to protect her from the things I see, the things I experience, and the nightmares that I have.

How do I cope with stress from work? I go back to work…If I am able to keep my mind focused and know that day after day, I am able to pick back up, return to work, and do what the citizens pay me to do, then I have won. The day that I don’t go back in is the day that I have been beat by the bad guy. At times, if it has been an especially rough night, the guys and I will go out for a few drinks. While there we tell funny stories, make fun of each other, and have a few beers. While this might just simply seem like casual conversation to most, it also reminds us that there are good things that come out of this job. The “you should have seen your face,” “Remember that time when,” and “Remember that call where” stories and laughs shared give us reason to pick up tomorrow and drive on.

All around, I think we have our own form of therapy without paying for it. The barbeques, the time together with the shift, the nights spent mirrored up for an hour just talking about times passed, that is our therapy. We get the bad out and replace it with stories of good. Not only is that something that helps today, but something that we can hang on to when we leave because at times, those stories are all that we have. And when you do finally leave, be it the department or the job, the best you can hope for is a couple of guys standing around a grill, drinking a beer or two, and hopefully your name gets brought up in a good light.

SCW Stella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SCW Stella said...

Hey Hollywood:
I sure haven't heard of this program within the NYPD. I know for a fact that a lot of the guys and gals serving there don't trust POPPA (Police Officers Providing Peer Assistance) and I see things differently from where I stand...but the NYPD is a big community and I don't profess to know everything.
Everyone Else:
There is a great organization out there called SAFE CALL NOW. ORG and I just had a conversation with the guy who runs it last week...seems like the right kind of guy, and the good news is that they're not attached to any one Police Department. Their number is: 206-459-3020 and they seem totally legit. I told Sean that I feel that the NYPD Officers I do know might be more apt to call him rather than the NYPD's reach out if for no other reason than the fact that cops are skeptical and so many don't trust the NYPD when it comes to confidentiality.
That said, I have been in therapy for...a long time. I look at it this way: it's the gift I give myself, once a unbiased opinion, an open heart, and a pair of listening ears. If you've never gone...treat yourself. If your officer is wary...go with him/her.
It's totally worth it.
SCW Stella

Hollywood said...


This is something that I heard at a FEMA conference talking about CISM. They said it was a small group that they were working with, but I don't know anything to be a fact.

Leah said...

My boyfriend is a new cop...and I am seeing a therapist about my own anxiety issues, but I just don't know. Not to mention we're doing this long distance for a while. I think therapy should not be frowned upon. My dear boyfriend thinks that it isn't necessary. Granted, he's a newbie, and I believe his department has mandatory counseling depending on the issue. New to your blog, looking forward to reading some old posts.

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