Importance of Mental Health in Law Enforcement and Implementation of Suicide Prevention Programs

Mental Health

Mental health involves emotional, psychological, and social well-being affecting how we feel, think, and act. Mental health problems are common but they can be treated, managed and help is available. Police officers and the criminal justice system have a responsibility of ensuring mental health is taught and trained to all people in the communities. Mental health helps to determine how stress is handled, how relationships are maintained and the choices that people make daily in life. It is important in every stage of life. Over the course of life, people experience mental health problems, which affect their thinking, mood and behavior. Many factors contribute to mental health problems. These factors include: biological factors (such as genes), life experiences (such as trauma), and family history of mental health problems. Positive mental health allows people to realize their full potential, cope with stress, be productive and make meaningful contributions to the society. Police officers can maintain positive mental health by staying positive, helping others, developing coping skills, getting physically active and getting professional help if they need it.

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People by nature, fear what they do not understand. Most police officers think that mental health problems are uncommon but, surprisingly, they are very common. Approximately 9% of all law enforcement emergency dispatch calls are related to a mental illness crisis. Police officers always seem to perceive people with mental illness as unpredictable, violent, dangerous and without discernment. They also feel that mental illnesses are not real medical problems. Police officers often think that people who talk about suicide are not suicidal but according to statistics these often try to commit suicide. The biggest of all misconception is that these officers think that depression is a normal part of the aging process and that if one cannot handle their mental well-being, they are weak. This is normally not the case. Most officers often feel that they require more skilled support to deal with unwell mentally-ill patients.

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Police officers see value in obtaining training to avoid potential bad practices in the line of duty. Mental patients often have unstable moods, feeling of hopelessness and have self-esteem issues. It is important as a nurse to have a way to talk to them and make them understand value their images and feel wanted, appreciated and respected. Identifying what works for the patient is important in creating the right scheme to help in mood stabilization and, eating and personality disorders. Mental health/stress related disorders mainly need to be managed and not treated. The best way to intervene is to implement lifestyle changes such as initiating sleep pattern control, mobility and infection control, and energy conservation schemes. For better outcomes it is critical to have an open communication channel with the patient to boost confidence and create a rapport for effective compliance.

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Importance of mental health among police officers

Law enforcement officers have one of the toughest jobs in the nation. They risk their lives every day to keep the peace and protect our neighborhoods from criminals. The occupation is very stressful in nature; these officers to need better access to mental health services to improve their health and help alleviate the anxiety that is a byproduct of their jobs. Being a police officer is stressful, dangerous and mostly stigmatized resulting to numerous physical and mental health problems. All stakeholders have a responsibility to protect the men and women in uniform. This department needs resources to equip the low enforcement agencies and address mental health challenges that these officers face. The government should avail grants to initiate peer mentoring pilot programs, develop training for mental health providers specific to law enforcement mental health needs, and support law enforcement officers. Majority of the police departments in the nation have introduced mental health programs to use them as protective and preventive measure for their officers’ mental health.

People with mental illness should get treatment and treatment that they need. Law enforcement officers have to be well equipped to properly and correctly recognize mental health problems amongst themselves and in their communities.  The criminal justice system has a responsibility to ensure public safety and foster justice by deterring and diminishing criminal behavior in the society (Lamb & DeCuir Jr, 2002). Law enforcers can only uphold the highest standards of their duty if they are mentally healthy and practice self-care. This will maximize their impact in the community as they protect themselves and their communities.

Understanding the warning signs of mental illnesses is the most fundamental step in trying to take corrective action. Mental health problems make life to become more challenging and affect the way of life of most officers. When officers are mentally challenged they seem to eat or sleep too much or too little, pull away from their colleagues, have low energy, feel helpless or helpless, smoke or drink more than usual and are always at the edge of outbursts, anger, upset confused or scared.  It is important to analyze the behavior of all police officers and observe any drastic changes from the norm to help distinguish signs of mental problems. Mental health issues if detected earlier can be combated to avoid catastrophic and huge problems at work or in the line of duty. People with mental health issues suffer from economic, social, spiritual and psychological prejudice. People often stigmatize mentally ill people and lack empathy towards them. It is our role to ensure that we help these people to be accepted in society and help them cope and transition into living an-almost-normal life. Mental health is more than that which has been diagnosed and includes daily happenings, moods, anxiety, stress factors and all the activities that can lead to mental excitation or depression. Mental health in law enforcement is founded on the doctrine of professionalism, ethical and social responsibility to humanity to provision of equity and equality regardless of the circumstances.

Legal and social concerns

Mental healthcare has a lot of legal and social concerns. There is a misconception that mentally-ill people are incapable of making informed and right decisions regarding their health. This is very unorthodox and unwarranted. All patients regardless of their mental status have a right to make decisions about their live, which includes their treatment. There are exemptions but basically that is the denominator. It is important to understand that refusal of a patient to any type of the treatment can be considered incompetence. Socially, mentally ill patients need supportive care from their families and the community at large. It is important for the patient to feel considered in the decision-making processes. Therapy for the friends, spouses, colleagues and parents is critical. This helps them to understand the role they play in helping these patients in these difficult moments. The parents can help boost their children’s self-esteem and rebuild a positive relationship. They develop a structure and routine that helps the patients to cope with their moods and emotions. Teaching on behavior modification helps replace bad behaviors with good ones. Knowing how and when to make rules, reward impulses kept in check and training on social skills can go a long way in making the caregivers influence the behavior of the mentally ill.

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Mental Health Training in Law Enforcement

Mental health training for law enforcement is essential because it teaches them how to recognize mental health challenges in their peers. Mental problems within our communities are increasing each dawn, making the people with the most demanding jobs to be the most affected due to the pressure involved in their jobs. Police departments have a responsibility to meet the increasing needs of individuals with mental health emergencies. Police officers are trained to question their environment and the actions of individuals. They have parens patriae obligation to protect those with disabilities. Implementing industrywide mental health response programs can provide officers additional training to successfully interact with individuals suffering mental health crises and de-escalate these situations.

Police officers are often the first responders to such scenarios and offer the first and immediate service for urgent mental health activities. Most police agencies spearhead efforts and programs that address mental illness in the communities. Provision of firs-responder services to mentally ill patients requires the police officers to be skilled and knowledgeable on how to go about it. This calls for the need to have a training model that provides a detailed program for officers to adhere to. Police officers need to be trained and allocated roles based on their expertise and capabilities. They are tasked with ensuring mental health programs are effective in the community. They also monitor and evaluate the strategies already in use to help take corrective measures to increase effectiveness of the programs.

Collaborative efforts are critical in alleviating mental health problems in the society. Partnership with community leaders and the mental health community should be established to educate the public on the goals of the program. A broad mental health response program is implemented to include reluctant members of the law enforcement to participate in the goals of the program.

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Importance of suicide prevention programs

Suicide prevention programs are built to identify groups that are vulnerable, improve the assessment and care of people prone to suicidal behavior and thoughts. These programs also improve research and surveillance as they raise awareness through improving public education prevention strategies. Preventive measures are prophylactic of suicide and suicide attempts. Police officers that are often faced with enormous amounts of pressure at work and have mental health issues are often susceptible to suicidal thoughts.

Grotesque experiences such as experiencing gruesome events in the battle fields might make some of the law enforcement officers to be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder that can manifest as suicidal attempts.  The support and rehabilitation of persons at risk can prevent some suicides. National governments develop holistic approach strategies to provide financial and technical support for people at high risk of attempting suicide. Governments through their health, social and other relevant sectors ought to invest human and financial resources in suicide prevention.

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The role of religion and spirituality

Many officers take the stress they experience at work back to their places of living. Law enforcement as a profession can be very stressful because of the numerous responses to calls for service, expectations from society, spouses, and family members, inadequate finances and leadership issues at the department. Officers often feel that they are under constant pressure and this baggage can accumulate over time. Officers crash when there is an imbalance in their personal lives and professional life over an extended period of time. Religious leaders have a responsibility to help officers deal with the emotional and spiritual aspects of their lives. Most officers do not address the spiritual side of life because of their inconsistent and downright crazy work schedules. They work night shifts, weekends and over-time in the quest to earn enough at the expense of attending religious services. Most officers neglect the spiritual aspect of life because of all the experiences of bad things that they have seen. They deal with the lowest of the low, brutal members in society, heartless individual and selfish individuals that can harden their outlook towards people and life in general. This is the part where religion comes in.   Spirituality helps people gain perspective on their life’s events and can help bring balance, perspective, and even gratitude for what they have. Officers who have a moderate understanding and practice of faith normally just need to be reminded of what is really important in the grand scheme of life and are able to renew their focus on the spiritual journey and address their mental health problems. Religion teaches that stress is a killer; it destroys lives and can cause immense mental illnesses. Officers have a responsibility to find ways to cope with their stress to avoid life-ending impact. In a Christian worldview, stress can be diminished when one understands their purpose and role in life.

Christian Worldview

Suicide prevention is a very conventional religious activity that adds to what most Christians want to do in their communities. Life is a sacred gift and suicide is seen as a desperate act by someone that views life to be intolerable. In Christianity, such self-destruction is not condoned. Satirically, faith communities increasingly support people that contemplate or engage in suicidal behavior (Turecki & Brent, 2016). They acknowledge that mental health problems and substance use disorders in association with life stressors can contribute significantly to the risk of suicide. Owing to that, they compassionately reach out to the person that attempts suicide and their families and friends to help them through that rough phase (Clemons, 1990). This concept collaborates with the historic precepts of faith and complementary medicine that includes spirituality, faith and prayer as an intervention of mental illnesses.

Different faith groups view life as a complex journey that can be interpreted differently. Spiritual leaders, faith communities and research communities’ practices of faith promote healthy living and offer ways through which human suffering can be decreased. They enhance and promote cultures and norms that preserve life. Christianity offers a holistic perspective to mentally ill people to help them navigate life’s struggles and find a sustainable sense of meaning, hope and purpose in life.

The church proclaims the gospel of grace and by its own life embodies that gospel. It embodies that gospel when it is particular to those that are mostly troubled such as people with mental health problems (Turecki & Brent, 2016). It reaches to people beyond its membership and comforts those that stand alone. It has a role to change societal attitudes and harmful social environments of people. Christians should embrace all persons that are affected by suicide through support groups, call upon society through the media to insist on the importance of human life and advocate for public policies that work against policies that devalue human life and augment cultural risk factors.

Conclusion

Mentally ill patients need to be treated with respect, considered in decision making and be treated in regards to their age and culture. Supportive therapy combined with pharmacologic intervention is the best way to manage and treat mental issues. Special populations can be affected by social isolation, poverty, childhood trauma or neglect, bereavement, homelessness or domestic violence. Physical cause such as injury to the head can cause mental issues. It is important to understand the etiology of the mental issues before starting any form of therapy to ensure effectiveness. Police officers and law enforcement agencies have a responsibility to maintain a healthy society and implement policies that foster mental health in the community. Mental illnesses can be prevented if the stressors are cut off before growing to cause a lot of damage.

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