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Many of us know someone who took their own life. We know an alcoholic. Maybe more than one. We’ve seen coworkers’ marriages fall apart. Maybe our own did, too.
Few jobs require seeing, experiencing, and helping others through trauma the way correctional officers do, and it’s no wonder mental health issues are pervasive in this profession.
Twice as many correctional officers suffer from PTSD as military veterans.1 For every correctional officer killed in the line of duty, 10 more take their own lives.2 Mental health concerns among correctional officers are very real, and they’re not going away.
It’s time to start talking about it.
“The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as
unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet.” - Dr. Rachel Remen
Everything from the stigma of getting help to the lack of available resources can prevent correctional officers from taking care of their mental health, and they’re feeling the repercussions both on and off the job.
It’s our responsibility as corrections professionals to take care of each other and to take care of ourselves. Our team has worked in criminal justice for over three decades, and we’ve seen what works:
- Educate yourself and your team. The first step toward addressing mental health is recognizing the impact that traumatic events can have on officer wellness. When you know what to look for in yourself and others, you can respond more quickly and effectively to signs that the trauma of the job is taking a toll.
- Have open conversations about mental health. Suicide and mental health can’t be taboo topics on your staff. The mental health stigma is strong both inside and outside most jails, and it takes proactive countermeasures to overcome it. Open conversations help normalize healthy behaviors and responses to trauma.
- Offer training and resources. Correctional facilities and law enforcement agencies across the country are implementing training programs to help officers understand the unique mental health stressors of their job and how to get help and be a source of support for others. Many of these programs have shown very positive results.
- Minimize stress where you can. There is so much of your job that you can’t predict or prevent, but there is a lot you can control. By implementing processes, workflows, and tools that streamline officers’ work and keep the routine aspects of their jobs stress-free, you can help them stay more calm and focused in the face of the unexpected.
Corrections is not an easy job. We don’t work 9 to 5 and then go home and forget about the stresses of the day. Forgetting isn’t easy, and it isn’t healthy. We see too much.
We’ve been where you are, and we can help. For tools and resources or advice on how to de-stress your team’s processes, get in touch today.
1 Survey: Twice as many correctional officers suffer from PTSD as military veterans
2 Correctional officer mental health: Surviving on the inside