"The police culture doesn't look favorably on people who have problems," he says. "Not only are you supposed to be superhuman if you're an officer, but you fear asking for help." Police officers who reveal that they suffer from a chronic disease or health problem may lose financial status, professional reputation or both, he explains.
"If you have heart disease, you may not be allowed to go back on the street," he says. "That's a real threat. If you go for mental health counseling, you may not be considered for promotions and you may be shamed by your peers and superiors. In some cases, your gun can be taken away, so there is a real fear of going for help."
The answer, Violanti says, is to change the training of officers in police academy so they understand signs of stress and how to get them treated.
"Police recruits need to receive inoculation training against stress," says Violanti. "If I tell you that the first time you see a dead body or an abused child that it is normal to have feelings of stress, you will be better able to deal with them; exposure to this type of training inoculates you so that when it does happen, you will be better prepared. At the same time, middle and upper management in police departments need to be trained in how to accept officers who ask for help and how to make sure that officers are not afraid to ask for that help," he says.
The BCOPS study is based on extensive and rigorous medical testing and integrates a broad range of psychological, physiological and subclinical measures of stress, allowing for correlations between on-the-job stress and stress biomarkers that reveal the potential for adverse mental and physical health outcomes.
Violanti and his co-authors note: "This study would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Buffalo Police Department administration, the Police Benevolent Association and the exceptional men and women of the Buffalo Police Department. Our sincere thanks to them, as we look forward to our follow-up study."
Source: University at Buffalo