When the topic of mental health and policing come into conversation, I often hear stuff like “they knew what they signed up for when they got hired.”
While this may be true for certain aspects of policing, it is not applicable to everything about policing, nor every officer. It is certainly not appropriate to use this adage when talking about another person’s struggles with mental health. While I can’t speak for others, I can certainly speak to what I “knew” about what I was “signing up for” when I decided to become a cop.
What I knew I signed up for:
- Helping people.
- Working with people.
- Being a leader in my community.
- Effecting positive change.
- Answering difficult calls for service.
- Dealing with difficult people.
- Shift work.
- Working alongside solid friends and amazing colleagues.
- Stuff I saw in the movies 🙂
- ….and the list goes on……..
What I didn’t know about the job:
- Overexposure to dead bodies and gruesome scenes.
- Overworked and understaffed nature of policing.
- Negative effects that shift work has on the body/mind & soul.
- That some days, I would hate everything about my job and I’d be willing to give all up.
- Effects of overexposure to repeated traumatic events on my body/mind & soul.
- The dark abyss of negativity and jadedness that would consume my entire person.
- Working alongside some colleagues that aren’t so great.
- Me imagining over and over how dying in different ways would feel.
- My PTSD and Depression symptoms that consumed, and sometimes still consume, my life.
- In short, the negative aspects that policing has had on myself and my family.
Because policing exposes us to life and life is unpredictable. When I signed up I was 22 years old and was a completely different person. Overtime people change and therefore life and priorities change. So when someone says “They knew what they signed up for…” No…no they didn’t.
Is policing a good career?
Of course it is! I still love my job. My mental health issues don’t define me. Taking it one day at a time and chilling in the present moment. Life isn’t always pretty but it sure is beautiful!
Stay strong and keep the conversation going,
Your Bearded Cop,