Today is PTSD Awareness Day in the United States

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WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT PTSD AWARENESS DAY?

We should care about our mental health and the effects of PTSD because law enforcement is a high-risk, high-stress career that exposes all of us to excessive amounts of trauma and tragedy and we ALL need to learn that we can’t cope with all that negative stuff just by surprising it.  Good mental health, like good physical health doesn’t come automatically, you have to work to build strength in both areas and taking care of your emotional Self is as important as taking care of your physical Self.  When you do become injured physically or emotionally it helps if you understand the issues surrounding your injury and know about your treatment options.  Learning about PTSD and other issues that can challenge your mental health can be as important as learning about physical conditions like back injuries and the preventative strategies that can help mitigate those injuries.

In their section on PTSD Basics, the National Center for PTSD operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says “After a trauma or life-threatening event, it is common to have reactions such as upsetting memories of the event, increased jumpiness, or trouble sleeping. If these reactions do not go away or if they get worse, you may have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a… Continue reading

Understanding and Developing Your Emotional & Spiritual Health

Brass_scales_with_flat_trays_balancedEDITORS NOTE: This is a guest posting from Rev. Keith A. Evans who is a Police Chaplain with the Casper Police Department.

Experiencing a great quality of life involves a balance between your physical, your emotional and your spiritual selves. The well-used analogy of a “‘three-legged stool” can be used as a visual image of what happens when one or two legs of your physical-emotional-spiritual selves are not in balance, or maybe not even present. Many people usually give their physical self the majority of attention and the emotional self receives a very small minority of attention. Leaving, more often than not, the spiritual self totally abandoned and without any intentional nurturing.

As this triad of total holistic health becomes more balanced, each leg’s strength or sphere of influence begins to overlap the others. The greater the overlap, the stronger the triad and a person’s resilience to crisis and… Continue reading

New Training Guide to Elevate Suicide Prevention Efforts within the National Law Enforcement Community

SuicidePrevDisGuideCoverNational Partnership Launches Police Suicide Prevention Facilitation Guide

At its highest levels, the national law enforcement community acknowledges suicide prevention as a health and safety priority. In 2012 there were 126 documented suicides of police officers (versus 49 killed by gunfire in the line of duty). In 2013 the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) held a forum called “Breaking the Silence: A National Symposium on Law Enforcement Office Suicide and Mental Health,” and in 2014 the IACP helped develop a video in partnership with the Carson J Spencer Foundation, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and the American Association of Suicidology entitled Breaking the Silence: Suicide Prevention in Law Enforcement (access video here: https://youtu.be/fBJbo7mnnBs). In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, and as part of an expanded collaborative effort, the partnership is releasing a video facilitation training guide for law enforcement agencies. The guide can be downloaded as a free PDF here:
http://carsonjspencer.org/files/9214/4078/2987/20150817_LE_Video_Guide.pdf

As a law enforcement officer for 30 plus years, the last eight as chief, I recognize the value of sustained, comprehensive and coordinated suicide prevention efforts for… law enforcement agencies. These tools can provide departments with an important first step in opening discussions around the sensitive issue of suicide and mental health,” said Kenosha Police Chief John Morrissey, member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Workplace Task Force. Continue reading

Heart Disease and the Law Enforcement Officer

By: Jonathan Sheinberg, MD, FACC Cedar Park Police Department

EDITORS NOTE: Dr. Jon Sheinberg is Board Certified Cardiologist and he is a sworn officer in the State of Texas. He is working hard to learn more about and fight heart disease in law enforcement. We conducted an interview with Dr. Sheinberg and are honored to publish his article.

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As a fellow Law Enforcement Officer and a physician I am trying to spread the word. We are missing the boat, and because of this, we are dying. There is a simple reason that law enforcement officers have some of the best pensions in the country – we do not live long enough after retirement to fully collect them. Several programs have been created to address premature officer death and officer safety is a primary concern for every agency whether on the local, state or federal level. Police officers and Special Agents are intimately aware of safety policy and procedure requirements: wear reflective vests, always use body armor, do not engage in high- speed pursuits for low-level crimes etc. Despite these efforts however, there is another cause of officer death and disability that is usually overlooked – cardiovascular disease.

Heart disease is a major problem for law enforcement!

Heart attacks are always in the top two or three categories of police line of duty deaths. However, if extrapolated to a full 24-hour day, heart attack likely becomes the number one killer of men and women in uniform. This is not new information. More than 20 years ago, International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) published some of their initial data (Violanti, 2013). The data are shocking. The life expectancy of a police officer is 20 years less than his or her civilian counterpart. Continue reading

Power Food For Law Enforcement

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 6.19.23 PMFueling the human body in extreme situations has become a science and law enforcement officers deserve to have the best nutritional knowledge and high-energy food products available to them.

Whether you work the streets, corrections, long duration investigations or emergency call-outs you deserve to have the best possible nutritional information and high energy food available to you to keep you performing at your peak capacity. You deserve it and so does your public.

Law enforcement officers should be fueling their bodies properly with fresh, nutritious foods and have the best possible high-energy substitutes available for emergency or long duration situations.

To that end we would like to gather as much information as we can to help. We want recommendations from law enforcement officers and nutritional professionals on what you should eat and what you should carry with you during your work shift to fuel you during an emergency or long duration call.

We want your input.
1. What do you pack in your power lunch?
2. What do you keep with you for emergency food in case you don’t get a meal break?
3. What do you keep long-term in your car or go-bag for emergency food

Eating the right things and knowing what to eat has long been a challenge for law enforcement officers. Some of us do this well and many do not. Obesity is becoming Continue reading

Critical Conversations With Law Enforcement

criticalconversationsCritical Conversations With Law Enforcement

by Lisa Wimberger of the Neurosculpting Institute

I had the honor of recently being interviewed by LESI Faculty member Lisa Wimberger for a new video series she produced called: Critical Conversations With Law Enforcement. In the video series Lisa talked with eight past and present law enforcement officers about the stresses in law enforcement particularly as it is being heightened by public unrest in many U.S. cities.

Lisa did an excellent job with the interviews and you can watch them for free until May 31, 2015 at this… Continue reading

Creating a Bulletproof Spirit

BulletproofSpiritCoverI recently had a chance to interview Captain (ret.) Dan Willis formerly of the La Mesa Police Department in California about his new book Bulletproof Spirit: The First Responder’s Essential Resource For Protecting and Healing Mind and Spirit. Dan spent 26 years working in law enforcement and retired as a Captain from La Mesa PD. Dan worked as a crimes of violence, child molest, homicide and cold case detective, a SWAT Commander, and as the agency’s Wellness Program Coordinator. He is a graduate of San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice. He has taught for 10 years at the San Diego Police Academy, and has been Officer of the Year twice with nominations for Detective of the Year for the State of California.

Dan is a graduate of the F.B.I. National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, where he studied emotional survival issues for first responders. While he was attending the FBI National Academy he took a class that changed his life and set him on a path to help the people who worked for him and ultimately to write this book for others. Dan now takes his four hour training class to anyone that needs him, and feels he is really making a difference. I know he is.

Dan said that when he was in the Emotional Survival class at the FBI National Academy one of the other participants described himself as a “victim of my profession” and that got Dan’s attention as a classic example of how many people in our law enforcement profession feel victimized by all the… Continue reading

Suicide Among Corrections Officers It’s Time for an Open Discussion

EDITORS NOTE: This article was written by guest contributor Michael Pittaro, assistant professor, criminal justice at American Military University and was originally published on InPublicSafety.com.

During my undergraduate education and on-the-job training as a young corrections officer starting in 1989, I was exposed to a plethora of research that focused on the various causes of and responses to prisoner suicides. Yet throughout my 20-year career in corrections, very little (if any) attention was paid to the issue of correctional officer suicides. Discussion of suicide within the profession was a taboo topic because corrections employees were not supposed to appear emotionally vulnerable or fragile. After all, emotional vulnerability often equates to emotional instability, which is perceived to be a weakness within the profession.

There has been much written concerning suicide among… Continue reading

PTSD Can Attack Years Later by Allen Kates

Jonathan-FigueroaPTSD Can Attack Years Later
Even With No Previous Symptoms

EDITORS NOTE: This article has been graciously provided by Allen R. Kates, BCECR, MFAW the Author of CopShock, Second Edition: Surviving Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

“I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t think,
I feel sick. I can’t do this anymore.”

Can you develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) months or even years after a traumatic event like 9/11? Without showing any previous symptoms?

There are studies of World War II veterans and victims of motor vehicle accidents that say Yes.

This phenomenon is called “delayed onset PTSD,” according to the therapist’s diagnostic bible known as the DSM-IV-TR. It states that symptoms first appear at least six months after the traumatic event. That could mean months or even years later.

Yet some mental health professionals argue that the individual must have had symptoms early on, but didn’t recognize them. They also suggest that the PTSD sufferer delayed getting help for months or years, not that the PTSD itself was delayed.

Nevertheless, many law enforcement officers with no obvious previous symptoms do develop PTSD months or even years after a traumatic event.

As an example of delayed onset PTSD, here is the story of a police officer that developed the disorder five years after 9/11 and what he did about it… Continue reading

Law Enforcement Officer Fatigue is a Critical Issue

EDITORS NOTE: The following article was brought to us by David Blake M.Sc and Edward Cumella PhD. about their research into law enforcement fatigue in relation to deadly force encounters. This subject if of vital importance to law enforcement officers and agencies around the world. We hope that you will engage in the conversation and bring the discussion back to your agencies.

Officer Fatigue and Officer Involved Shootings (OIS) – A deadly combination for error!

By: David Blake M.Sc and Edward Cumella PhD.

Law enforcement data indicate that officers frequently suffer from high levels of fatigue due to lack of sleep, unusual shift schedules, and long hours awake. Research confirms that fatigue impairs a person’s mental functioning, especially in areas such as decision making, reaction time, and memory. Yet little study has directly investigated fatigue’s impacts on officers’ performance in police specific tasks, particularly in deadly force situations.

A first of its kind study

A recent study conducted by me; David Blake, MSc., a retired police officer, and Edward Cumella, PhD, a professor of psychology at Kaplan University, has finally addressed this issue. Our ground breaking research examined fatigue’s effects on 53 officers’ decision making and reaction times when the officers were faced with deadly force situations. Officers completed online tasks both before and after each of their shifts, for one week. Records included a history of their sleep patterns, total hours slept, total hours awake, shifts worked, and sleep quality. Officers were then engaged in a series of simulated shoot/don’t shoot scenarios using pictures of potential targets, targets that use of force experts had previously classified as warranting either a shoot or don’t shoot response, or as ambiguous.

Dr. Cumella and I found that many fatigue measures correlated strongly with officers’ impaired decision making and slowed reaction times within the deadly force situations. In particular, poor sleep quality, greater total time awake, more days worked, and working night or swing shifts all decreased the accuracy of officers’ decisions to shoot or… Continue reading