EDITORS NOTE: Guest contributor Sean Peterson is a patrolman with the Taunton Police Department in Southeastern Massachusetts and a member of the regional Critical Incident Stress Management team. He is also the owner and performance director at Chaos Fitness.
I sat down to write this in the wake of New York City Police Department’s ninth suicide this year. The current Blue H.E.L.P. statistics stand at 131 suicides on the year, with four months to go. Protesters are literally begging police to commit suicide in Portland, Oregon. With what feels like everyone and everything against us, how do we rise above the darkness? Below I have outlined some thoughts and ideas surrounding mental and physical health we first responders can easily employ in such trying times.
A Physical and Mental Approach
“Combat” or “Square” Breathing
Here’s the simple process…
1. Intently breath in with strong focus- slowly counting 1, 2, 3, 4
2. hold that breath counting 1, 2, 3 ,4
3. slowly and consistently exhale that breath 1, 2, 3, 4
Simply put, combat/square breathing is an effective way to calm the nervous system. It is a very basic introduction to the world of mindfulness, creating space between ourselves and our reactions. It brings our focus to the present moment by concentrating our attention on our breathing, allowing us to slow things down for a while, so our bodies can catch up. Consider implementing this technique to offset the adrenaline spikes and stressors associated with hot calls, inter-department nonsense and the obstacles of everyday life. The beauty of this technique is… Continue reading
Last year was the first year that the number of reported law enforcement suicides exceeded the number of Line of Duty Deaths. It’s happening again this year.
As of September 9, 2019 Blue H.E.L.P. has verified 142 suicides while the NLEOMF has only reported 83 Line of Duty Deaths.
So what are you willing to do to stop this problem from happening at your agency?
Do you have a suicide prevention program in your agency?
Well, you no longer have an excuse for not having a program. With a video produced by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Working Minds Program and the Carson J Spencer Foundation, and our CopsAlive.com roll call discussion guide you can create a ready made program the moment you finish reading this page.
One of your peers is suffering; maybe you are too! They want to be good at their job and actually make the world a better place. However, one too many dead baby calls, and too many months on the night shift with all the drunks and people shoving their cell phones in your face and your partner has had enough. Of course all of this comes on top of the increased violence in your area and the unending tide of gang members plying their drug trade in your neighborhood and your peers are telling you to “suck it up” and “shake it off” — but you can’t. It’s bad enough that work is unending trauma and tragedy, but your spouse is nagging you about not being able to cover the bills this month and why you can’t make your kids recital tomorrow afternoon. Maybe you have experienced some of this too? So what do you tell your partner about why it’s important to take care of yourself? How do you endure this job until retirement and not eat your gun first?
The recent surge of police officer suicides should be a red flag to what is happening within our profession. We need to deal with law enforcement suicide as a symptom of something much more complex and insidious that is eroding our people from within. We spend lots and lots of money on technology to improve policing while at the same time forgetting that law enforcement is a people business. If we don’t take care of our people, they won’t be able to take care of THE PEOPLE!
Recently, we were in Washington D.C. attending a banquet called Honoring the Service of Law Enforcement Officers Who Died by Suicide. This first time banquet was held in conjunction with National Police Week and was sponsored by BLUE H.E.L.P. Its purpose was to honor and recognize the service of offices who made that fateful decision and their survivors. It is Blue HELP’s mission to put names and faces to the men and women of Law Enforcement whose emotional injuries become too much to bear. Although the number of Law Enforcement personnel who take their own lives typically exceeds… Continue reading
This week we will be continuing our online discussions about modern policing as part of our Tactical Resilience™ & Ethical Policing Project. We want to ignite a thoughtful, and regular, discussion about issues critical to the success of modern policing and we want to involve you! To that end we are planning regular webinars that will last about an hour. talking about how law enforcement officers, and other first responders, manage the trauma they encounter within their careers. Our focus will be on the prevention, management and recovery from trauma.
Our guest will be Law Enforcement Survival Institute faculty member NYPD Intelligence Detective First Grade (Ret.) Mordecai Z. Dzikansky.
As part of NYPD’s Manhattan South Homicide Squad Det. Dzikansky responded to, and participated in the investigation at, ground zero following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Additionally, from January 2003 through 2008… Continue reading
John Marx and Chaplain Cary A. Friedman invite you to join us for a new online discussion about modern policing as part of our Tactical Resilience™ & Ethical Policing Project. We want to ignite a thoughtful, and regular, discussion about issues critical to the success of modern policing and we want to involve you! To that end we are planning regular webinars that will last about an hour. They will involve a little discussion, a little training and a few guests along the way.
Our next online session will be LIVE on Wednesday May 8th at Noon Eastern time. Space will be limited to the first 100 people who register in advance.
Have you read the 458 page softcover resilience textbook: Armor Your Self: How To Survive A Career In Law Enforcement and want to learn more?
We are bringing our Armor Your Self™ workshops to a city near you:
Armor Your Self™ 2019 Preliminary Spring Workshop Calendar includes workshops in Daytona Beach, Florida; Columbus, Ohio; Lansing, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Pueblo, Colorado; Glendale, Arizona and one hosted by the Louisiana State Police.
To learn more or register for one of these workshops visit: https://armoryourself.com/register/
The Armor Your Self™ project is a powerful concept that will begin building the foundations of law enforcement health and wellness for your personnel, your families and for your organization.
The program is taught as a Resilience Research Learning Laboratory with all the participants researching, discussing and learning information that is specific, and important to them.
Each participant receives a copy of the 458 page softcover resilience textbook: Armor Your Self: How To Survive A Career In Law Enforcement by John Marx (a $24.95 value).
Participants will find the tools they need to recognize the symptoms of the toxic effects… Continue reading
It’s National Suicide Prevention Week again (September 9th – 15th, 2018) in the United States which is a week-long campaign to inform and engage health professionals and the general public about suicide prevention and warning signs of suicide.
I lost one of my law enforcement friends to suicide in 2007 and that’s what prompted me to start CopsAlive.com.
In my opinion, law enforcement suicide is a symptom of what ails our profession, and it should be an priority issue to resolve — but it hasn’t been.
This year, I thought I would follow suit with some other enlightened thinkers on this issue and challenge you to think about how our law enforcement culture contributes to suicide, and how we can fix that… Continue reading
How do you handle that one guest that just will not leave? I recently heard a definition for what trauma is. Trauma was defined as: when you leave the scene, but the scene does not leave you. That definition resonated with me. How many calls did I leave that did not leave me?
I know we all have scenes and calls that have not left us. Some are years old. Some are obvious. The larger scenes and the obviously tragic calls stay with us. It is expected. In my department, certain calls are expected to cause trauma such as an officer involved shooting or a line of duty death.
When something like that happens, peer support is automatically activated and… Continue reading
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