Michigan Prisons Name Official To Deal With Worker Stress

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Responding to concerns about stress and suicides among corrections officers, the Michigan Department of Corrections has appointed an employee wellness program manager, the Detroit Free Press reports. Lynn Gorski joins the department from the Michigan State Police, where she headed programs designed around the idea that mental wellness in law enforcement jobs is “a necessity, not a perk.” Corrections director Heidi Washington told senators that her officers “work in a highly volatile … environment,” and reducing stress is “an issue that’s very important to us.”

Since 2015, at least 14 active or recently retired corrections officers have committed suicide, said a spokeswoman for the Michigan Corrections Organization union. Washington said studies show corrections officers have high rates of suicide and divorce, as well as shorter life spans. One study indicated that 3.5 percent of the general population has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, but 27 percent of corrections officers do, she said. Starting last year, all corrections staff had to complete a classroom-based program related to stress. Officials are working on a staff resilience program to include in the 2020 training plan. In addition to increasing training, the department wants to reduce the stigma associated with stress and asking for help.

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