16 September 2022
Category : Opinion
Caring for those who care for us: mental health in the security forces
Police officers can develop mental and physical health problems due to the traumas they face during their career. Understanding and learning how to manage stress helps to prevent, recognise or avoid misbehaviour that undermines public trust in law enforcement. How do we address mental health in law enforcement?
Valentina Salvato, project officer of the project Promoting community policing in Lebanon, co-led by the FIIAPP, reflects on the importance of paying attention to mental health in police forces and the action developed by the project through various training courses for this purpose.
Why is this approach necessary?
Being a police officer means being exposed on a daily basis to traumatic events that can endanger their own life: accidents, violence, critical situations and emergencies, natural disasters… All of these entail risks that can affect the mental health of any person. Moreover, we must take into account the current context of Lebanon, a country affected by an unprecedented severe political, economic and financial crisis and a series of traumatic events – the demonstrations of October 2019, the Beirut port explosion in August 2020 and the consequent worsening of the Covid-19 pandemic – which have had a direct impact on the lives of citizens, their behaviour, their psychological stability and their mental health.
How do we address mental health within the security forces?
From the project Support to community policing in Lebanon, we seek to shed light on the issue of mental health in the security forces: a problem that is often ignored, unknown or even rejected. However, the truth is that police officers can develop mental and physical health problems due to the traumas they face during their career. Understanding and learning to manage stress helps to prevent, recognise or avoid misbehaviour that undermines public confidence in law enforcement. As the chief inspector of the Spanish National Police and director of the project, Joaquín Plasencia García, points out, “if a police officer loses the trust of citizens, he loses everything”.
For this reason, we support the Lebanese police in order to implement a preventive and psycho-educational strategy with psychological tools and methodologies to prevent, protect and resolve possible stress situations.
Thanks to the trainings we have offered in Lebanon, such as the last one at the Internal Security Forces Academy (Aramoun), 63 police officers have received tools to prevent and deal with stress situations, conflict resolution, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anger management or emotion control. This mental health training is also an excellent form of primary prevention, as it increases the knowledge, awareness and resilience of all officers, achieving a direct impact on citizen care, as it reduces and prevents episodes of misconduct in the security forces.
By caring for the well-being of those who care for us, citizens receive better care and service.
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