Although there are lots of positive steps being taken regarding mental health support for first-responders in recent years, I truly believe that the negative side of police culture is the biggest obstacle to overcome. Not only does mental health have a negative stigma, it is often perpetuated within police culture. This blog is not about quoting studies, to which there are many that support this statement. It is a point of view from someone who is part of that culture. Imagine working in an environment where people use the term “snap leave” to describe someone who is currently off due to mental health issues. An environment where people’s response to a mental health issue is “you knew what you signed up for,” does not create a safe space for sworn police and civilian police members to speak up about things they are going through. It reinforces the very negative stereotypes we associate to mental health. A culture which refers to people on medical accommodations as “weak” “fakers” “lazy” “the problem” does not encourage an inclusive environment of healing but instills fear in those who may be suffering from medical issues including mental health. The toughest challenge for policing will be to create change within police culture itself. Therefore it is incumbent upon everyone who is part of this culture to recognize the need for change, and to have the courage to address it.
Your Bearded Cop