What to Know
- 8,000 police officers across the U.S. responded to a survey by News 4 New York and the Fraternal Order of Police
- They overwhelmingly reported that stressful or traumatic experiences on the job have impacted their mental health
- The FOP says the survey is unprecedented and highlights a critical need; but officers say getting mental health assistance can be tricky
Amid rising concerns about police officer suicides, an unprecedented survey by the News 4 New York I-Team has found there’s a startling need for mental health services that’s not being met.
In cooperation with Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), News 4 New York sent a confidential online survey to thousands of police officers to hear directly from them about the impact of post-traumatic stress on their lives, and to learn what services are available when they need help.
From across the U.S., nearly 8,000 police officers responded, overwhelmingly reporting that stressful or traumatic experiences on the job have impacted their mental health.
Among the struggles they say are directly connected to the job: 16 percent have had thoughts of suicide, 15 percent have struggled with substance abuse, 52 percent have experienced family and relationship problems and 61 percent are haunted by recurring or unwanted memories of incidents.
The FOP says the survey is unprecedented and highlights a critical need.
“The sad reality is more police officers commit suicide in a year than are killed in the line of duty and that’s consistently the same year after year,” said Sherri Martin, chairperson of the FOP’s National Officer Wellness Committee. “Police officers don’t want to admit that they need help, because it’s often seen unfortunately as they aren’t able to do the job.”
But police officers say getting mental health assistance can be tricky. Of those who responded to the survey, 90 percent said there is a stigma in law enforcement that creates a barrier to seeking help for emotional or behavioral health issues. Seventy six percent were concerned about putting their job at risk if they asked for mental health assistance and 85 percent worried about being seen as weak or unfit for duty.
Additionally, 80 percent say they have not used services provided by their department’s employee assistance program (EAP) for mental health issues related to their job. Of those who did use their EAP, 59 percent did not find it helpful.
“There are some departments across the country unfortunately that still don't really offer a lot of mental health services or wellness services to their police officers,” said Martin. “And that's where the survey is going to bring light to those vacancies and bring light to those shortcomings and help us develop better programs and resources.”