The Need for Multitasking and Stress

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This paper first describes the types of critical incidents and other stresses experienced by law enforcement personnel. Many of these challenges affect all personnel who work in public safety and the helping professions, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics, dispatchers, trauma doctors, emergency room nurses, and psychotherapists (Miller, 1995, 1997, 1998a, 1998b, 1999, in press); however, the focus here will be on the stressors most relevant to police officers, criminal investigators, and other law enforcement personnel. Secondly, this article will describe the critical interventions and psychotherapeutic strategies that have been found most practical and useful for helping cops in distress. One of the worst effects of stress on police officers is of course suicide. We are becoming all too familiar with police suicide especially with the attention the media has given New York City. Twice as many police officers die by their own hand as do in the line of duty! A study of 2376 Buffalo NY police officers found that compared to the white male population police officers had higher mortality rates for cancer, suicide, and heart disease. The suggested reason: Higher stress levels. Every study done points to the higher levels of stress police officers face, but what form does that stress take? With suicide there seem to be four factors: 1. Divorce. 2. Alcohol - not alcoholism. That was one of the early theories. But in actuality it was the use of alcohol right before the act to "get up the nerve". 3. Depression. 4. A failure to get help. (Most officers who commit suicide have no history of having sought counseling). As a police officer progresses in his/her career is the eroding of the attitudes. As noted above, police work presents a high risk of developing attitudinal problems. As a police officer's career progresses, they become more cynical. No one questions this anymore. The only questions in the research are how cynical and how soon. Some studies suggest that cynicism can be seen developing in the academy and just gets worse from there The problem with cynicism is that destroys all attitudes. All attitudes become negative and thus the cynic will eventually crash. Cops, more than people in any other profession, are in continual danger of becoming cynics. In continual danger of crashing! It is, I think, an officer’s job and duty (especially to his family) not to crash. Too much is at stake. Staying psychologically fit means committing to take care of yourself. It takes work. The greater the stress, the greater the need to apply maximum thrust into this resistance! For the average officer possibly the hardest job of staying healthy is to admit that he/she has a problem. The second hardest feat is the willingness to get help. I have often marveled at how police officers, whose careers are centered on helping others, have so much trouble accepting help. On the other hand, I have also marveled at the difficult jobs the officers I have worked with have undertaken and succeeded at. Both on and off the job. A single-task job is gradually getting faded out. Be it outdoor or indoor tasks or a mix of both, present-day employees have to be prepared to take up multiple tasks this is even more increasing for Police officers. Police officers undergo elevated levels of stress. Several coping mechanisms can help reduce and effectively combat stress police officers endure. Not many have an accurate understanding of what police officers go through while working in high stress and dangerous environments. Police officers are taken for granted and people rarely think of the personal, mental, and physical sacrifices that police make in order to protect our community. Police officers were nameless and faceless people separated from the rest of society. They are the enforcers of the laws our society deems as appropriate behavior -- even if it contradicts what an individual officer believes. If it's hard for some to see that...
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