Officer Safety Corner: Equine-Assisted Learning Resiliency Classes to Reduce PTSD and Stress

It is no secret that many first responders, especially police officers experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and high levels of stress. Despite the prevalence of these issues, training the mind prior to a critical incident is often overlooked. While training the body before a critical incident is completed via scenario training, classes or training on critical incident stress usually occurs after a critical event. Training the mind for a critical incident is not accomplished with scenario training because the conscious part of the brain is not engaged in the threat, as evidenced by studies. For instance, “The Impact of a New Emotional Self-Management Program on Stress Emotions, Heart Rate Variability, DHEA and Cortisol,” examines the body’s chemical reaction when the brain perceives a threat and the fight-or-flight response takes over. The study revealed that the unconscious part of the brain is in control in these crisis situations and sends messages to survive; reasonable thoughts are not involved with the decisions to resolve through protocol. Even after the crisis is over, the body takes time to exit survival mode—in scenario training, it can sometimes take up to 20 hours for the body’s hormone levels to become “normal” again.