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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. [1]

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. [2]

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. [1]

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. [2] 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.

Jean Kanokogi, Ph.D., is a recently retired Senior Special Agent from the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations with extensive experience in conducting myriad investigations, including several high-profile cases. She is a sought-after speaker and presenter in corporate, law enforcement and mental health arenas as she connects with people through her expertise in resilience, emotional intelligence, deception detection, interviewing skills, firearms/martial arts tactics, and humor – she keeps it real.

She has authored numerous mental health and law enforcement-related articles for professional journals. She holds a B.S. and M.S in Criminal Justice/Protection Management and a Ph.D. in Psychology. She is the co-author of the award-winning best seller, “Get up & Fight: The Memoir of Rusty Kanokogi” and tells the story of how one ordinary woman changed the world for so many.

Jean is the Director of Mental Health and Peer Support Services for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. She works daily to bridge the gap between law enforcement and mental wellness. She is a 9/11 first responder and uses her experience to help others with Post Traumatic Growth. She is a Department of Homeland Security Senior Instructor on all behavioral science topics and has worked with the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group. She is a 6th-degree black belt in judo and was a member of the U.S. National Judo Team.

Her website is