Smashing the stigma of getting mental health assistance for law enforcement
Stigma can prevent officers from seeking the support they need, leading to negative outcomes such as burnout, substance abuse and even suicide
Law enforcement officers face many challenges in their profession that can negatively impact their mental health, including high-stress situations, responding to traumatic events and working long hours. Despite the prevalence of mental health challenges among police officers, there is still a significant stigma attached to seeking help. This stigma can prevent officers from seeking the support they need, leading to negative outcomes such as burnout, substance abuse, and even suicide. 
In this First Responder Wellness Brief, I explore how law enforcement agencies can smash the stigma of getting mental health assistance for police officers.
Promote a culture of openness
One way to reduce the stigma around mental health is to promote a culture of openness and support within law enforcement agencies. This can be done by providing mental health resources and training to officers, encouraging open and supportive communication, and normalizing the idea that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. 
Provide the tools
Training programs can provide officers with the necessary tools and resources to manage their mental health challenges and promote self-care. Agencies can also provide access to mental health professionals and resources, such as confidential counseling services, to help officers cope with stress and trauma.
Offer peer support
Another way to reduce the stigma is by providing peer support programs. Peer support programs can help officers feel comfortable sharing their experiences with colleagues who understand the unique challenges of their profession. Peer support programs can also provide officers with a safe and confidential space to discuss their mental health challenges and receive support from their peers. 
Be the change
Finally, law enforcement agencies must lead by example. By prioritizing officer mental health and promoting a culture of openness and support, agency leaders can create an environment that encourages officers to seek help without fear of judgment or stigma.  Leaders can set an example by acknowledging the challenges of the job and encouraging officers to prioritize their mental health.
Smashing the stigma of getting mental health help for police officers requires a concerted effort by law enforcement agencies. By promoting a culture of openness and support, providing mental health resources and training, implementing peer support programs, and leading by example, agencies can help reduce the stigma and support the mental health and well-being of their officers.
NEXT: How to build and sustain an effective officer wellness program
1. Carter K, Wong J. (2021.) Peer support for police officer mental health: A scoping review. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 15(1), 73-85.
2. Santos A. (2021.) Breaking down the stigma: Why law enforcement must prioritize officer mental health. Law Enforcement Today.