5 Fundamentals To An Effective Law Enforcement Officer Wellness Program

5 Fundamentals To An Effective Law Enforcement Officer Wellness Program

Not that long ago, an officer struggling emotionally after a particularly grueling call would avoid seeking professional help due to the stigma associated with therapy and counseling within law enforcement.  

Today, as a result of evolving attitudes regarding mental health and the toll policing takes on it, agencies around the country have instituted policies and programs to support and improve the mental wellness of their staff. Law enforcement wellness programs are one such effort. 

In addition to the general benefits of positive mental health in the workplace (improved resilience, performance, and morale), prioritizing the mental wellness of your officers can also mitigate the impacts of specific challenges faced by law enforcement today, including retention, recruiting, and the negative impacts of operating under increased public scrutiny. 

However, having the right intentions means nothing if the creation and execution of such programs are not handled carefully and with enthusiasm. In the article below, we’ve outlined 5 key fundamentals of an officer wellness program that will effectively support the mental wellness of your officers. 

1. Education on Mental Health and Wellness


Addressing common misconceptions and providing education regarding the issue at hand is always an important step when attempting to change the culture surrounding a new or foreign concept. It’s especially important when the culture has been largely negative or dismissive in the past. 

Research has shown law enforcement officers experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and other mental health conditions at rates significantly higher than the general population. Unfortunately, due to hesitancy around seeking treatment, many officers may be living with these conditions without fully understanding the symptoms they experience or how to treat them. 

Whether it’s through in-person workshops, online training, or other educational resources, education is a vital part of the equation when building an officer wellness program. 

2: Partnerships with Mental Health Professionals


A common roadblock for law enforcement leaders when starting an officer wellness program is finding licensed professionals that have the appropriate cultural competency. Concerns regarding confidentiality are also typical.  

Finding, vetting, and fostering partnerships with mental health professionals who have the experience needed to navigate the types of trauma experienced by law enforcement officers can go a very long way to changing organizational culture around mental health.  

Different areas of the country will have varying access to resources, but checking with other local agencies, reaching out to certifying organizations, and reviewing online resource can help get you started.  

3: A Peer Support Program for Police Officers


No matter how much experience a mental health professional has, no one knows the challenges of law enforcement better than officers. Officers tend to prefer to seek counsel from their colleagues, and peer support been shown to be a powerful tool to improve mental wellness and reduce instances of officer suicide. 

A formalized peer support group also makes it easier for officers to reach out for help when needed and can further de-stigmatize discussions around mental health at your agency. 

Just like a wellness program, getting a peer support group started takes time and effort, but the positive impact it can have on your officers is unmatched. 

4: Develop Relevant SOPs to Support Officer Wellness


Law enforcement is often unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean agencies shouldn’t put in the effort to be as proactive as possible. Having standard operating procedures in place regarding follow-ups from peer support groups, critical incident stress debriefs, and other wellness-related actions can improve outcomes and reduce the job's short- and long-term impacts on officers.  

Transparency around these procedures, and the resources that members can request, can make all the difference for someone in crisis.

5. Utilize Technology to Support Officer Wellness Efforts


Developing and implementing a comprehensive officer wellness program is no small task, but the right technology can help manage and streamline the process. 

Guardian Tracking, an early intervention and performance management solution, can bolster efforts to support mental wellness by equipping law enforcement departments with a process for identifying those in need of help and facilitating procedures following a critical incident.  

In addition, the Vector LMS training management system offers a simple way to manage and administer online and in-person training to ensure your officers receive the education they need to support their mental wellness. 

Vector Solutions’ suite of industry-leading software solutions for law enforcement includes training management systems, online training courses, FTO/PTO/CTO/live skill evaluations, and an early intervention and performance management system.  

To learn more about supporting officer wellness with technology, please request a demo today. 

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