Earlier this week I read that the Law Enforcement suicides in 2019 had reached 100. This is more than the number killed in the line of duty. It is a tragedy and it is shameful that this is occurring. This is been an on-going epidemic for years. What is being done about it? I remember in "the old days" if one went for counseling they were automatically judged as not being fit for duty. That has slowly changed over the years and some counselors were brought in by departments after traumatic events. Still, no one looked at the day to day traumas that officers witnessed or admitted that these things could cause problems in officers lives. These problems include, PTSD, divorce, and yes, suicide. We were taught to not talk about it because that was a sign of weakness. I know now that it is weakness, not to talk about it. It takes great strength to open up, especially for officers. It takes great strength to talk about it and admit there is a problem. It takes great strength to overcome and ignore the stigma of wanting help. It takes even more strength to deal with the problem, and carry on serving our communities. making a difference and improving their lives and relationships. It takes even more strength to go to work every day afterward, knowing we will run into similar situations that have already caused the traumas we must deal with.
I have spoken too many officers and one common thing is; they don't share any work related issues with their families. I have heard the statement, "I don't share the things that happen at work. They don't need to know those things." Interestingly enough, this officer thought he had it figured out. The sad thing is, that is what I thought in 1994, before my first divorce. I shut down and didn't share things about that part of my life. I didn't share about the things that bothered me, or hurt me because I didn't want my family to worry or have to deal with it. That was the first brick in the wall. As I held back, not sharing about that 1/3 to 1/2 of my life, my relationship slowly deteriorated and I found it was easier not to share about other things, until in the end, I didn't talk about anything. I simply addressed surface issues and not of anything that really mattered. After a few years of going through the motions there was no relation. Is it any wonder I was divorced?
There are many things I could blame on my spouse, but when I take a self accountable look at what I did or did not contribute I can see the issues I created.
How do we share things that would blow the mind of the average civilian? How do we share things with our spouse or significant other and not upset them?
This is the purpose of my course "Bridging the Gap;" An Inside Look at Communication and Relations for Law Enforcement.
First we get to be accountable for what we contribute to our relations. Second we focus on ways to deal with stress and reduce the affects of PTSD. Then we focus on ways to actually share about our jobs and the things we have seen, in a way that is productive and keeps the lines of communication open with our families. In ways that do not add bricks in the wall, in ways that bridge that gap that many of us have un-wittingly created.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH-
When flying, they have a briefing about using oxygen if necessary. One of the things said is to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others with their mask. This is true and necessary for survival. Our lives are the same way. It is time for us to take care of ourselves and then those around us. If we can't take care of ourselves, how do we expect to take care of our families, or our communities. It is time to take an accountable look at what we are or are not doing in self care, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
There is no excuse not to take this look as there are so many resources available for treatment of PTSD, relationship counseling, and suicide prevention now. Let's get rid of the stigma, show the strength we have and fix our personal situations in whatever way it takes.
Bridging the Gap is offered at Orem, Ut Police Department on August 15, 2019 at 8:00 am. Are you open to some new ways to look at relations and improve the ones you have. As our personal relations improve, our work and community relations will also.