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Mitigating the Negative Effects of Stress

As a law enforcement officer, stress is an inherent part of your duties. Long-term exposure to stressors can negatively affect you and your abilities as an officer. Not actively managing stress can impair your ability to protect yourself or others. This Spotlight on Safety focuses on how to identify stressors, how stress appears in yourself and others, and different ways to build your skills to deal with it.

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Mitigating the Emotional Impact of Stress on Law Enforcement Personnel

A true snapshot of today's law enforcement officer encompasses the totality of the health and wellness of the men and women in uniform. The safety of communities nationwide is affected by the health and wellness of the officers sworn to protect them. An officer who is not well may become complacent or even act out of character (e.g., excessive use of force, citizen complaints). But maintaining the health and safety of this nation's police force often requires a delicate balancing act. An officer's basic job duties, though essential, often contribute to physical and emotional stress, which can compromise the officer's ability to effectively serve and protect. Traumatic events and cumulative stress can wreak havoc on the bodies, minds, and lives of this nation's public servants.

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The posters below are available for you to print and post around the office. These posters serve as a daily reminder not to become complacent. Research has shown that suspects read officers to decipher their preparedness. Prepare now for what could happen, so if it does, you’re ready.

Mindfulness Techniques To Combat Stress

Mike Hardee felt the effects of stress in his 42-year career in law enforcement. Read his personal account of using mindfulness training as one tool to mitigate the negative effects of stress. His hope in writing this article is to help law enforcement officers start looking at stress in their lives and begin implementing methods to manage it. This is one method of many that works for him.


Building Resilience for Officers

Learn what you can do to build resilience and reduce the negative consequences of stress.

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Resilience Initiatives for Agencies

Agencies need to support programs that address stress and build resilience at every stage of an officer’s career.

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Stress Awareness

Share this poster with your fellow officers to help mitigate the effects of stress!

Build Resilience

The impact of stress can be reduced. Be intentional, act now, build resilience!

Behind Closed Doors

Many law enforcement suicides occur in the home. Job stress is only part of the equation.

Some Wounds Are Invisible

Know the symptoms of PTSD to keep yourself and your fellow officers safe.

Reduce Your Stress

Take long-term steps to reduce stress and increase your health.

Be a First Responder

As a first responder, you may be called on to save the life of a fellow officer. Know where to seek help!

VALOR for blue eLearning

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Mental Health and Wellness

Law enforcement officers face many forms of stress in the commission of their jobs. Officers have to worry not only about the physical dangers but often the emotional stressors, which can affect officer safety. Operating under stress can lead to fatigue, burnout, depression, physical and emotional ailments, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and lack of sleep, all of which can impact an officer's thought processes, reaction time, perception, and judgment. This online training module is designed to provide an overview of the different levels of on-the-job stressors that law enforcement officers face in the commission of their jobs. The module outlines the characteristics of stress and gives techniques for managing it and creating a work-life balance.

The Importance of Fitness

This online training module will address the critical need for law enforcement officers to engage in regular physical fitness to help ensure their safety. It will also provide guidance on how officers can improve their overall health and wellness through such simple tasks as maintaining a proper diet and getting quality sleep. Finally, the module will review a study that illustrates how the stressors encountered in the law enforcement profession directly impact an officer's physical health.

Officer Down: The Road Ahead

This webinar illustrates the importance of the mental health and wellness of law enforcement officers following a critical incident. Speakers include former Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority police sergeant Dic Donohue, who tells his incredible story of recovery after being shot during the pursuit of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. He discusses the physical and mental effects the incident had on him, his family, and his agency. Dr. David Englert, clinical psychologist for the Charlotte–Mecklenburg Police Department, provides an intriguing overview of the short- and long-term effects on other officers within the agency. Recorded on October 12, 2016, at 2:00 p.m., ET.

Behavioral Response to Stress and Fear

June 30, 2016 - 16 minutes

This episode examines how the mind and body respond to stress and explores methods that can be implemented to minimize the negative effects that stress can have on performance, especially in critical situations. Retired Major Mark Sawa, who served with the Travis County, Texas, Sheriff's Office, shares techniques for officers to remain calm and operate under stressful conditions.

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Resources Mentioned in This Podcast

Thriving: One Officer's Story of Resilience Following a Critical Incident

June 30, 2016 - 22 minutes

Retired police chief and VALOR instructor John Bouthillette shares his story of not only surviving but thriving after a critical incident that nearly took his life. Dr. Olivia Johnson joins us, as well, to share steps that officers can take immediately to improve their resilience.

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Resources Mentioned in This Podcast

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The Benefits of Sleep

June 30, 2016 - 15 minutes

Sleep is beneficial for both our bodies and our minds, and not receiving the proper amount of quality sleep may affect your safety or the public's safety. With the help of Dr. Olivia Johnson, we will discuss the benefits of sleep, the dangers of not getting enough sleep, and tips for achieving better sleep.

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Healthy Hire–Healthy Retire

July 25, 2017 - 30 minutes

In this episode of the VALOR Voices podcast, Captain Brian Nanavaty of the Indianapolis, Indiana, Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) discusses officer wellness and resilience. Captain Nanavaty played a key role in the development of IMPD’s Office of Professional Development and Police Wellness. In 2015, the IMPD won the Destination Zero award for Officer Wellness. Captain Nanavaty details why agencies need to be proactive and implement wellness programs for their officers. At the very core of the issue, a partnership needs to be created between every officer and his or her agency by providing the resources for officers to stay physically and mentally healthy and resilient, from the point of hire through retirement. Captain Nanavaty explains how this partnership will benefit the officer, the department, and the community.

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Officer-Involved Shootings: A Guide for Law Enforcement Leaders

Law enforcement personnel should be aware of specific mental health and wellness services that are available to them following an incident. Each department should train its members in the residual emotional, psychological, and behavioral effects often associated with officer-involved shootings and other potentially distressing critical incidents. Agencies are encouraged to train all personnel in both normal and problematic post-traumatic reactions and in appropriate responses to employees who have been involved in a shooting or other traumatic incident.

Shifts, Extended Work Hours, and Fatigue: An Assessment of Health and Personal Risks for Police Officers

Physical health, psychological well-being, safety, and efficiency at work are important factors for any police agency to consider. When one considers the monetary and human costs of fatigued officers, it is essential to promote scientific awareness and subsequent plausible interventions. The rate of officers dying from health-related problems and accidents, for example, has surpassed the rate of officers dying from homicide. Fatigued or tired police officers are also a danger to themselves as well as the public they serve. Little is known of the long-term impact of shift work and extended work hours on police officers, and no direct, scientifically rigorous exposure assessment of shift work has yet been done. The goal of this investigation was to examine police officer exposure to shift work and the association of such exposure with adverse health and psychological outcomes.

Strengthening Officer Resilience

Police work is often stressful, and officers are likely to experience or witness violence and death. These stressors can have a big impact on officers' physical and mental well-being and can accumulate over the course of a career. Many officers struggle with alcohol, depression, suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other challenges.

Preparing for the Unimaginable: How Chiefs Can Safeguard Officer Mental Health Before and After Mass Casualty Events

It is hard to imagine that an incident as horrific as those that occurred in Newtown, Charleston, and San Bernardino could occur in our own communities. Indeed, events of this kind are rare. But they do happen, and law enforcement leaders must be prepared not only for a possible incident but also for the aftermath that would follow. Though most agencies have trained and equipped their officers for immediate response to mass casualties, few have prepared their personnel for the psychological fallout. Tragic events can have a profound effect on first responders, who may suffer emotional distress that lingers long afterward, leading to personal problems, alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness.