Depression is a psychological disorder that results from traumatic experiences that people encounter in the course of life. National Institute of Mental Health (2009) explains that, “when a person has a depressive disorder, it interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her.”
Depression interferes with the normal life of a person as it results into loss of interest in activities, pessimism, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, persistent aches and feelings of hopelessness amongst other symptoms. Although there are many attributes of depression, traumatic experiences are the major causes of the depression in most people.
For instance, law enforcement officers experience traumatic incidences during the cause of their duties such as frequent shootings, deaths, intimidation from the media and public, risking their lives, dangerous working environment and humiliating domestic violence amongst many other stressors. Since traumatic experiences relate with depression, does the trauma that law enforcement officers endure over the years make them susceptible to depression? Yes.
The traumatic experiences that the police officers encounter and endure during the course of their duties make them susceptible to depression. As aforementioned, depression is a psychological disorder that occurs mainly due to the traumatic experiences in life.
Since law enforcement community frequently encounters traumatic experiences, it has contributed to high incidences of depression among the police officers signifying that trauma is the cause of depression. The trauma and stressors that are inherent in the police profession contribute significantly to the police officers’ depression.
Leeds argues that, “police officers experience frequent and ongoing stressors in their work that range from cumulative stress – constant risk on the job, conflicting regulations, and public perceptions that may be inaccurate – to critical incidents: violent crimes, shootings and mass disasters” (2009, p.4). All these stressors and traumatic experiences are potential causes of depression that have made police officers become susceptible to depressive trauma.
The police profession is emotionally stressing and physically dangerous; therefore, it elicits depressive feelings that expose police officers to depression. Anderson (1998) argues that, “police have been tuned to dissociate from their emotions or suppress their emotions in order to be able to endure the scene, but chronic, long-term and cumulative stress takes its toll on police officers resulting into trauma syndrome.”
The police officers endure traumatic experiences to a point in life where they trigger overwhelming depressive feelings that cause depression. Although the police officers may tolerate many traumatic incidences such as witnessing the death of fellow police officer or criminal ordeals, after a certain period such memories resurface and elicit depressive moods. This illustrates that traumatic experiences associated with policing cumulatively increases susceptibility of the police officers to depression.
Retirement studies of the police officers have shown that many of them suffer from the depression caused by the traumatic memories related to the cumulative experiences, which occur throughout the police life.
Violanti argues that, “law enforcement officers experience varying forms of job-incurred trauma throughout their careers; residual effects can eventually create trauma during retirement as officers may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder from carrying accumulated emotional baggage into their retirement years” (1997, p. 5).
Since traumatic experiences of policing have psychological residual effect that lead to the depression, researchers recommend that, the police officers should undergo psychological counseling and training before and after retiring in order to alleviate depressive trauma. At this point, it is clear that the trauma that law enforcement officers endure over the years make them susceptible to depression.
Anderson, B. (1998). Trauma Response Profile. American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Web.
Leeds, A. (2009). Police Officers’ Responses to Chronic Stress, Critical Incidents and Trauma. Law Enforcement Bulletin, 1-8.
National Institute of Mental Health, (2009). Depression. Web.
Violanti, M. (1997). Residuals of Police Occupational Trauma. The Australasian Journal Of Disaster and Trauma Studies, 3(1), 1-8.