Law enforcement officers frequently face scenarios that can take a toll on their mental health, leading many agencies across the country to focus more resources on supporting officer wellness.
One of the departments leading the way in this effort is the Quincy Police Department in Illinois.
Quincy Police Department Administrative Services Sergeant Erica Scott believes that what officers experience on the job can have a detrimental impact on their lives.
“We see a lot of things that the general population doesn’t always see,” Scott said. “So, it can have an effect that leads to depression, substance abuse, alcoholism, suicide. Obviously, the rates of suicide in law enforcement [are] extremely high and that’s definitely something that we want to try to be proactive and prevent.”
Despite extensive training, officers may never be fully prepared for the harsh realities they encounter on duty.
The trauma resulting from these situations can lead to career burnout, contributing to the ongoing officer shortage.
Recognizing the need to support officers through difficult times, the Quincy Police Department has made officer wellness a top priority.
“I think that there are still a lot of people that are willing to take on the risk and do the job,” Scott said. “That’s one of the things that has advanced significantly even since I came on about 20 years ago is the proactive approach to maintaining that officer health and wellness, both physically and mentally.”
To address the mental health challenges faced by law enforcement, the department has implemented various resources and support systems.
One noteworthy initiative is the WeNeverWalkAlone app, available to both Apple and Android users, which provides officers with 24/7 access to services.
Additionally, the department has a behavioral health therapist on contract who is available around the clock.
In addition, there’s strong peer support among officers within the department, Scott says.
“I think it is extremely beneficial to have the camaraderie and the internal support,” she states. “It’s also fabulous to see the support that the community gives us. We are really blessed.”
The Quincy Police Department is one of many agencies across the nation committed to officer wellness.
The Des Plaines, Illinois, Police Department, for example, has spearheaded an innovative initiative to connect law enforcement officers with peer support officers and vetted mental health professionals across the nation.
The WeNeverWalkAlone platform serves as a comprehensive resource, offering treatment options, educational materials, real-time interaction with advisors and peers, survival stories, lifestyle information and more.
The groundbreaking effort aims to address the unique stress and trauma experienced by law enforcement officers, providing a one-stop shop for their diverse needs.