This brief lays out steps that may help family members, friends, and others support an officer that they love and shares practical strategies for helping loved ones.
Law enforcement officers are often reluctant to seek mental health treatment for a variety of reasons. Those closest to the officer hold a special kind of influence when trying to convince them to seek help. This brief lays out steps that may help family members, friends, and others support an officer and shares practical strategies for providing assistance. The officer’s department might have internal mental health services, wellness/peer support programs, or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that includes therapists who are contracted to help with mental health. Another good place to start is to link the local union or Fraternal Order of Police. In addition, it may be helpful to reach out to an agency chaplain, peer support group, local clergy, or a network of mental health providers. Many law enforcement agencies are now housing wellness programs and wellness coordinators. These programs can help officers and their families develop resilience and provide support during times of mental health need. There are times when mental health treatment may be mandated by an agency. As policy and procedure allow, families should be a part of the discussion about what steps need to be taken for an officer to remain on duty or to return to duty. Law enforcement officers may need more than just outpatient mental health counseling. Each year, more officers die by suicide than are killed in the line of duty. If an officer is talking of suicide or has made suicidal gestures, it is vitally important that they get the help that they need. The same is true for officers who may be abusing alcohol or drugs. Family members and friends should support their loved one and reach out to resources, including the agency, to make sure that the officer is safe and has access to help.
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