Police officers often endure years of anguish after they are involved in shootings and other traumatic events. The stress, trauma and burnout from these life-or-death encounters have prompted the Austin Police Department to examine whether it provides the necessary resources to police and civilian staff, reports the city’s American-Statesman. Seeing an increase in alcohol-related incidents among officers this year, Chief Brian Manley has made mental health in the department a priority. He has commissioned a group of experts — including physicians, wellness specialists, peer-support officers and chaplains — to look at how to identify symptoms of post-traumatic stress and how to prevent and treat mental health crises.
“This is an issue that is problematic for police departments across this country,” Manley said. “We recognize that there is probably more that we can and should be doing…We care about them as people, and I think that we have a duty to do everything we can to enhance their health and well-being.” During their career, an officer experiences an average of 188 critical incidents, including being beaten, shot at or threatened with a gun, a 2018 study by the Ruderman Family Foundation found. Law enforcement officers are five times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress in their lifetime than the general population, according to the report. First responders, including police and firefighters, also are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, it found. “This is a career where you can’t unsee things that you have seen,” Manley said. “Every officer walks around with visions of things that they have experienced during their career. That impacts you.”