Safeguarding Officer Mental Health Before and After Mass Casualty Incidents

Police officers are carefully recruited and well-trained to deal with threats and ensure their own safety and the safety of their communities. As a result, many people would likely assume that officers are more resilient than the average citizen—and they may be. However, working in law enforcement exposes officers to many more risks of abuse, injury, and death than the average citizen. As a result, many officers struggle with alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. In fact, almost one in four officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their lives. And, in the smallest departments, the suicide rate of officers is almost four times that of the general U.S. population average. Between 7 percent and 19 percent of police officers have symptoms of PTSD; by comparison, only 3.5 percent of the general population experiences PTSD.

Most telling, more police officers die by suicide than by homicide; the number of police suicides is 2.3 times that of homicides. The high numbers of officers with mental health conditions has nothing to do with weakness and everything to do with experiencing trauma.