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Mental Health in LEO

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  • Mental Health in LEO

    Hey everyone! I've been lurking on here after a series of random google searches for my first novel brought me in November. I've loved the candor, or lack there of, and it helped me tweak a few things in that story, which is currently being beta read. I've been hanging out with the RCMP officer (yes we only have one) in my town and I'm waiting for security clearance to go spend the day in the police station in the city, so don't worry no silly questions about policy from me.

    Currently, I'm solidifying the plot of another novel. Both stories involve the mental health issues of professionals, specifically a pharmacist, nurse, LEO (RCMP sorry y'all) and a teacher, and their coping mechanisms, eg: therapy, medication, drug/alcohol abuse (that's the nurse not the LEO, trying to avoid the stereotypes here). The antagonist being the only truly "sane" person on the bunch and unfortunately the most dangerous. I hadn't intended to write a cop into the original story, then it was for personal amusement, and now I've fallen in love with the character (not in a sappy way) and I'm writing his story.

    So, I'm wondering if anyone is at the point in their mental health journey that they would feel comfortable shedding light on the way your line of work effects your mental health? I know it's a long shot, but thought the anonymity of the internet may help! I'm not looking for source material or gory stories (that's the easy part), but more of an understanding, if that makes sense. I'm wondering what's the system for mental health in general? Regular checks? Can they be duped? How do you deal with the fog or the weight when you need to be constantly "on?" Is there a buddy system? Can you guys use medicinal cannabis? Really anything that you feel is pertinent?

    Feel free to DM me if you want to chat and don't want to post it. I'm a great listener and have been to rock bottom myself and scraped my husband off it more than once, so no judgements from me!

    Lots of love for all you guys! And a huge thanks for taking the time to read my third novel ^^^ lol




  • #2
    Can you guys use medicinal cannabis?

    Yes, but must first turn in all badges and gear.
    Chance favors the prepared mind.

    -Louis Pasteur

    Comment


    • #3
      So sassy Ratatat lol but in all honesty that sucks, it’s amazing stuff for anxiety and depression. I work in the pharmaceutical industry and it’s been a huge focus for the last ten+ years behind the scenes of course. I forgot how strict it is down there still. Some municipalities up here even allow recreational use as long as their officers are “fit for duty” the next day, but that’s a whole other discussion!

      Comment


      • #4
        No agency I've ever heard of regularly screens their officers for psychological well being. Usually that happens after a noteworthy use of force incident where the agency is covering it's rear end or looking for a reason to kick an employee on mental health grounds. There's often a stigma within the LEO world about being seen as 'weak 'or 'unreliable' if suffering from mental health issues. More than anything official, you're more likely to see a guy suffering from something turn to a few close co-workers he trusts not to blab it and talk to them about it. Aside from that, there's a reason the rate of suicide among cops is higher than norm. Members of my agency try to look out for one another, but at the same time, no one's going to say something to cost them their job.

        Of note, if it's of interest, IL recently passed a law designed to promote LEO's being able to turn to mental health professionals without risking their jobs. It's a fine law, in theory. I'm curious to see what the long term application will look like. My agency, along this line of thought, amended its policy so we no longer need to possess a FOID card to be officers here. In IL, if you're committed for psychological exam, you have to surrender your FOID and all firearms usually.

        Comment


        • englishteach19
          englishteach19 commented
          Editing a comment
          Thank you for the info and link! I’m honestly blown away, I didn’t realize our countries were so vastly different when it comes to the care of our LEO. Just the fact that they can fire you for “mental health grounds” has my jaw on the floor!

          Considering all that you guys experience it’s incredibly unfortunate that more focus isn’t put on taking care of you and eliminating that stigma. Buddies are great but they can’t possibly replace proper psychiatric care. I sincerly hope that the law and changes play out as intended and more from your agency are able to
          access care they need!

        • NW121
          NW121 commented
          Editing a comment
          The States can be a little slow on some things. We'll get there eventually and figure out something else to boondoggle along the way.

      • #5
        Originally posted by englishteach19 View Post
        I'm wondering what's the system for mental health in general? Regular checks?
        Our help and support for MH is pretty good and colleagues are genuinely understanding when an officer, as we say round here, "goes wibble" (suffers a breakdown or can't cope). Regular screening is restricted to certain roles - such as those that necessitate access to indecent images of children for example.

        Can they be duped?
        The screening tests can obviously be duped. It isn't exactly hard to spot the indicator questions for anxiety and depression, for example. The actual MH professionals are going to be harder to fool and I've seen them screen out suspects in custody pretending to, for example, hear voices, in a matter of minutes. Question is, why would you (speaking of officers now)? It may very well be different elsewhere but in my lot, a medical retirement just isn't on the cards. Also, the last thing most officers I know want to do is to jack (let down their colleagues).

        How do you deal with the fog or the weight when you need to be constantly "on?"
        How does anyone deal with stress? There's the positive - good relationships with friends and family, exercise, meditation, outside interests (and many others) and the negative - drink, drugs, going over-board (and many others).

        Is there a buddy system?
        Not as such. However, a friend, traditionally, looks out for a friend.

        Can you guys use medicinal cannabis?
        Yeah, I hear Canada has decided that cannabis is the new panacea. If I had a pound for every Space cadet who claims that they need to smoke cannabis to help with their MH problems, when it is pretty clear smoking weed turned their brains into Swiss cheese to start with ... No, we can't use cannabis, "medicinal" or otherwise.
        I'm a little bit waayy, a little bit wooah, a little bit woosh, I'm a geezer.

        Comment


      • #6
        Sadly mental health issues are still viewed within my agency (and I suspect many others) as a weakness or character flaw. People tend not to come forward when they do have issues because it can hurt their career and/or be put on a modified duty status and suffer significant loss of income. In some cases they could even be given a fit for duty exam and removed from service so people tend not to come forward with mental health issues. But they can seek care on their own through their medical insurance.

        Comment


        • englishteach19
          englishteach19 commented
          Editing a comment
          Yeah everyone I’ve talked to says the same thing, there’s definitely a huge stigma around it still. I find it a little strange given that it’s a fairly obvious side effect of your job unfortunately.

      • #7
        The needle has moved a little bit in the past 25 years but it's still a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation.

        Example: rookie and FTO respond to execution style homicide one week out of the academy. FTO notices rookie has difficulty concentrating the following shifts. Rookie tells FTO trauma scene is continuing to affect and asks for help. FTO tells chain of command and rookie is sent to department headshrink for fitness assessment and counseling. Rookie is now very much on their radar screen for bah-bye, as in thanks for applying but bah-bye, this isn't for you...

        Conversely, when people don't seek help, the outcomes can be more tragic than just losing a job. Divorce. Alcoholism. Substance abuse. And anyone whose been in this line of work for more than a day has people they worked with or trained with who self-terminated. I have two.

        So the best approach? Get help, go on meds if necessary (I once read that 30% of urban LEOs in the U.S. are on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication), but be discrete about it all. Only notify management when absolutely required, because if someone in power doesn't like the cut of your jib, sticking someone with a psych tag is a much easier way to dismiss than a performance tag. This can be a bit tricky because while you may have medical privacy rights, you may also be legally obliged to report mental health issues, depending on position and employer.

        But always look out for yourself because no one else will.


        RE: medicinal cannabis to treat PTSD in first responders. My first reaction is no way, not in a million years, but I also said that about gay marriage and recreational marijuana legalization, so what do I know. What is the better way to treat anxiety/depression- SSRIs or the sticky icky? I defer to the medical community but will say this: more pills is never ideal.



        Chance favors the prepared mind.

        -Louis Pasteur

        Comment


        • englishteach19
          englishteach19 commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks for the clarification, I’m sorry about your friends. Glad some are getting help. I don’t understand how there’s privacy laws but you can still get the boot for a “psych tag?” Not that most people go into work and declare they’re taking x,y, z to their boss, but wouldn’t labour law dictate that you can’t loose your job for an “illness?” Is it simple because the of the higher standards that y’all are held to?

          I agree with the more pills not always being the answers as well, and in a couple years I guess we will see how our first responders are doing up here. Lol
          Last edited by englishteach19; 02-04-2019, 05:39 PM.

      • #8
        I have a hard time picturing them letting us carry guns with cannabis in our systems. "High Cop Shoots X, Y, or Z" isn't a headline any agency wants in the paper. And that's exactly how the media would portray it.

        Comment


        • englishteach19
          englishteach19 commented
          Editing a comment
          You have a point.. but CBD is most commonly used to treat anxiety/PTSD/depression and doesn’t produce a high, although the media/public takes every opportunity to blame the police unfortunately. There’s a few that need to go live in a country where the police forces are actually corrupt and gain an understanding of how damn easy it is here if you ask me lol

        • NW121
          NW121 commented
          Editing a comment
          Some perspective like that probably would help a fair number of journalists. Even use of force training.

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