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Brian Willis

Brian Willis

Brian Willis is a retired officer, trainer and author who now serves as deputy executive director for the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).

Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

Get a Mental Oil Change

Handle your stress with a trusted confidante before it takes you out of service.

June 04, 2013  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

Photo via Stephen Poff/Flickr.
Photo via Stephen Poff/Flickr.
In your law enforcement career, there will be times when your stress level causes too much friction or locks up your forward motion. I usually don't give psychological counseling, but listen to some sage advice from a chief who knows.

When the stress boils over, there are paths recommended by the agency. You may speak with your departmental chaplain. You may make an appointment with your employee assistance programs (EAP) or peer counselors. These pathways exist for your sake as well as for the well-being of your family and co-workers. Fully understand your rights and privileges within these programs.

There are those who don't want to reach out for help within organized, formal programs. Understood. Maybe you'd rather speak to your own spiritual counselor? Or maybe you just need a good conversation with a trusted confidante to recharge your batteries.

More and more officers are becoming victims of a level of stress that, if not attended to, could turn them into the psychologically walking wounded. They know they need to reach out to someone. Fear holds them back. It's not a signal of weakness to reach out. It's not a career ender; they aren't coming to cart you away. We want to clear you up and get you back in the mix.

When I notice stress taking a stronger hold of an officer, I'm obligated to offer formal remedies. If rejected, I then ask whether they have a trusted confidante. These are people who know you well. When you speak with them, their counsel makes the world a better place. Your brain functions like any finely-tuned machine. Sometimes your psyche needs that oil change.

It's important to have these helping folks identified and within reach of a phone call, when you or they need it. The relationship is often a two-way street. Sometimes, you're a helper to them. Call this a battle buddy if you like. I've been fortunate to have had a few of these people. When I talk with them, I feel better.

I usually call an old colleague who knows me well enough to hear me and can tell me what I need to hear, rather than what I may want to hear. Not in a condescending way, just listening and giving me the direction I need. These are the valuable friends who make it easier to maneuver through life. Reach out and keep the lines open. Don't wait until it's too late or too all-encompassing. Do yourself a favor today. Give your contact a call and get a good handle on the day. You won't regret it.

Comments (6)

Displaying 1 - 6 of 6

Ryan Churchwell @ 6/12/2013 6:38 AM

Well written Mr. Harvey. Unfortunately for me, the stress of the job after ten years grew to the point of no return. I utilized alcohol as a coping mechanism rather than asking for help. The stress of the job resulted in me going out on disability retirement and unrepairable harm to my family life. Since retiring, I have utilized New Jersey's cop2cop hotline and have taken suggestions which have gotten my life and mind back on track. I still have a hard time dealing with my "loss of identity" as a LEO, however I have goals of working with local law enforcement and counselors in the future to provide services to law enforcement and other first responders who are "too tough" to ask for help. I appreciate this article, for it struck home for me. God bless.

Old Motorcop @ 6/17/2013 2:13 PM

I remember when I had some issues in dealing with a homicide I was basically told to quit whining. I am glad some agencies are coming around to the idea of helping rather than ignoring. When an officer involved shooting bothered me though, the civilian EAP guy told me I was probably just going thru burnout and suggested a seminar on that topic. Not really helpful, sometimes it takes a cop to understand a cop.

Jim A @ 6/26/2013 7:38 PM

That works if you are lucky enough to have someone that you can trust. If you don't, realize that before what you say ends you up in a world of hurt. A pastor has an obligation to keep your "secrets'. A fellow worker does not.

Dan P @ 6/27/2013 8:03 AM

Great advice Mr. Harvey.

Ima Leprechaun @ 6/30/2013 7:00 PM

I am just happy to have made it another year after dying June 11, 2012. The Police Chaplain I see has been a big help.

gwen bagne @ 9/14/2013 4:25 PM

I am a new LE Chaplain and i loved this article. It was a great read and very confirming.

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