Lifelines Status:Code 4, Inc recently did an interview with Colorado State Lodge FOP Executive Director Mike Violette on law enforcement mental trauma, PTSD, PTSI, substance abuse and how the Colorado FOP Police Officers Foundation can help officers struggling with these issues.
Shedding 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 FOP Can Help!!!!
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.
Additionally, police suicide in our nation has reached crisis numbers. Much of which is tied to work related mental trauma and its debilitating effect on some officers’ mental and physical well-being. Reported law enforcement deaths by suicide annually exceed to number of officers murdered in the line of duty by felonious assault. That death toll is growing. And we know there are more suicides than those that go unreported for a variety of reasons by agencies annually. There is no requirement to report these deaths of their officers.
The Colorado FOP through its Foundation has a team of professionals that specialize in the treatment of work-related mental health issues in policing. The Foundation is partnered with two psychiatrists, two highly experienced peer support officers, a substance abuse counselor, and two attorneys specialized in work related police officer PTSD. All of our referrals in this area are strictly confidential.
Those of us in law enforcement know that the stress from our job can be toxic and at times debilitating. What we don’t seem to believe is that it can happen to us, or someone we work with. And when it does, as individuals we don’t know what to do about it. But it can be treated.
Officers suffering in silence, fearful of the opinion of their peers if they seek help. Fearful of losing their job if the bosses find out. So, they pretend all is well until that is no longer possible, and the beast within escapes to destroy them.
Dealing with the serious workplace issue of PTSD is the highest priority of the Colorado Police Officers Foundation. We are working hard in this area, and are committed to making a difference for Colorado's finest. We are working in many areas with the goal of putting a bright light on this serious subject.
To address the myriad of issues surrounding this subject, the Foundation has developed a resource team of experienced law enforcement experts. Our resource team includes:
• Two psychiatrists who work extensively in the field of law enforcement mental health and trauma issues.
• Two highly experienced peer support and crisis intervention officers.
• A drug and alcohol abuse counselor who specializes in working exclusively with first responders.
• Two workers comp attorneys who specialize in work related police officer PTSD claims.
• An alcohol/substance abuse treatment facility exclusive to treating 1st responders & military suffering PTSD.
All the resource and treatment referrals that we offer to our members are provided on a completely confidential basis. We are also working on both education and awareness in this area. Managing the resources necessary for treatment and referral programs for these officers in need is an expensive proposition.
The Colorado FOP's Foundation relies solely on member, Lodge, and public/corporate donations along with grants, to support our efforts and maintain our ability to provide resources. You can help with our outreach and treatment programs with a simple donation.
No amount of generosity is too small or too great. If you want to help click your mouse on our secure PayPal "donate" button below.
If you are in need of help or interested in finding out more give us a call at 303-426-1733. Your contact will be in strict confidence.