Police officers are at a risk of mental health issues, studies report

A new data analysis reveals mental health concerns in police officers are growing as around 1 in every 4 officers suffers from hazardous drinking levels, while 1 in 7 appears to check all the boxes for post-traumatic stress disorder besides depression. The journal, Occupational & Environmental Medicine has posted this study and it is now available online for everyone.

Mental health issues were found to prevail in the majority among police officers which leads emphasis to be put on treatment and evaluation programs to help struggling officers besides obvious extra money to level these preventative measures that other risk groups receive, researchers said.

While risk factors are not yet clearly reported, published research explains that first response teams in the police run serious risks of mental health problems even more so than the general public. It is however not fully known how common mental health issues really may be in the police.

Researchers report, while the police are often at the center front of public mistrust and scorn, they are increasingly exposed to extraordinary violence and death as per the nature of their work. This highlights the risks they run of mental health issues.

To bridge the knowledge gap researchers went through different 16 research databases to look at published studies relevant to their objective between the years 1980 and October 2019.

They found in their research that the overall qualities of the studies were at most (46%) or almost (54%) moderately. Their findings included proof of at least 100 active police professionals who helped meet the study’s inclusion criteria. These police professionals were found to have been assessed using validated measures to learn certain aspects of ill mental health.

Mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder, substance abuse, depression, and suicidal thoughts were covered under the studies that included a large number of 272,463 officers form all 24 countries picked for the study.

Male officers aged averagely 39 were primarily chosen on most of the studies that were gathered from North America, Europe, and Australia with percentages of contribution being 46%, 28%, and 10% between the three countries.

Previously reported rates of mental health issue prevalence were found to be less than the pooled analysis of data that indicated double the rate published in older studies.

The percentage of officers suffering from different mental health conditions include 1 in 10 that checked the boxes for an anxiety disorder at (9.5%), suicidal thoughts leading next at (8.5%) and alcohol-dependent officers to rank 1 in 20 with (5%)

The data analysis listed out several solid risk factors responsible for mental health issues, job stress, poorly developed coping mechanisms, and poor levels of peer support were all among the listed factors in the analysis. For consistency in risk factors, female sex was also scored for poorer mental health.

The study methods and study designs were widely diverse and included several studies that can be coined as observational and derived solely from symptom reporting that could be thought to be subjective, researchers observed.

Nonetheless, the findings emphasized that police officers suffer from a considerable amount of mental health issues that require a great need for the implications of effective interventions and programs that can be used to monitor such issues that arise on the job.

If these programs are not started or put in action police officers will continue to face psychological problems and will continually run health risks, they conclude.

These interventions are however difficult to devise and have a collective agreement on, considering the lack of good evidence to support it.

In conclusion, further research is required to assess which interventions would prove useful to address peer support and stress levels in the police, the research also needs to be inclusive of different social and ethnic groups besides different genders, researchers say. The results, however, do in the end support initiatives for police mental health.

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