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
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!
Police resilience is about making sure… Continue reading
The Silent Assailant by Julie Zielinski
EDITORS NOTE: Julie Zielinski is a Law Enforcement Survival Institute faculty member and lost her law enforcement deputy son to suicide. You can read her story in her book: Matt’s Last Call and you can read more here on CopsAlive – Here: My Journey by Julie Zielinski and Here: Matt’s Last Call or listen to our interview with Julie on the CopsAlive Podcast Here: “Matt’s Last Call: Surviving Our Protectors”
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
Have you ever wondered how diabetes could affect your job as a police officer or other type of law enforcement professional? I hadn’t either until I came across an interesting article that started me thinking and I wanted to share it with you.
The Mayo Clinic defines Diabetes as “a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is vital to your health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It’s also your brain’s main source of fuel.”
The article I found was posted on TheDiabetesCouncil.com asked “Can You Join The Police Force If You Have Diabetes?” so I read further and found it very interesting. Here is an except with some interesting thoughts from our friends at TheDiabetesCouncil.com
“Do diabetes and law enforcement mix, or does having diabetes disqualify one from working in law enforcement?
Although having diabetes should not disqualify you from working as a law enforcement officer, the nature of the occupation would require… Continue reading
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.
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