Breaking Down Barriers to Support Law Enforcement Wellness

To implement effective law enforcement wellness programs, it’s critical to reduce the barriers that prevent officers from seeking help.

February 14, 2023

Article Highlights:

Law enforcement professionals deal with more challenges than most, and their daily work often involves stress, trauma, and tragedy. While it might be a citizen’s worst day, for an officer, it’s just another Tuesday. They still have to return to duty the next day and face it all again. 

Strength, resilience, and composure are not just essential for a long career in law enforcement – they’re also expected by leadership and citizens alike. This immense pressure to stay strong no matter what can negatively impact law enforcement wellness over time. 

Without adequate support, officers are more likely to face anxiety, burnout, depression, and PTSD – and, unfortunately, many do. Researchers estimate that 12% to 35% of U.S. law enforcement officers have experienced PTSD, and another survey found that 9% of officers experience burnout. 

The unique challenges of a career in law enforcement also mean traditional health and wellness resources don’t meet officers’ needs. And even when police officer wellness programs are in place, many officers don’t take advantage of the resources available. A 2021 study by Walden University found that less than 20% of officers sought help due to stigma and other common barriers

Law enforcement wellness programs face an uphill battle against several common barriers that limit effectiveness and officer adoption. So, what are these barriers? And how can your agency break them down to ensure your officers get the support they need, when they need it?

Common barriers to using law enforcement wellness resources

Despite the benefits that complete wellness solutions can provide, many law enforcement professionals are hesitant to use them. Four common barriers often play a role in officers’ reluctance:

  • The stigma of asking for help
  • Belief that no one understands
  • Lack of anonymity
  • Not realizing they need support

Stigma of asking for help

Law enforcement professionals are the protectors of their communities, and that comes with a lot of responsibility and high expectations. One of those expectations is to be resilient through every tragedy and live up to the hero persona that citizens expect. Officers may believe that asking for help means they’ve failed their community and their department. 

The best law enforcement wellness programs take this into account and thoughtfully provide officers with support when and how they need it. Officers are more likely to sustain long and healthy careers when they have access to law enforcement wellness resources they feel comfortable using.

Belief that no one understands

Many officers believe no one truly understands the challenges in law enforcement – and, therefore, they can’t talk to anyone about their struggles. In some cases, officers may worry that sharing their stories might traumatize their friends, family, or even therapists outside of law enforcement.

The lack of complete wellness solutions for law enforcement professionals means many officers feel alone in their struggles. Breaking through this sense of isolation and showing officers they aren’t alone is central to improving their wellbeing.

Lack of anonymity 

A lack of anonymity plays a significant role in officers’ reluctance to take advantage of law enforcement wellness resources. If an officer knows or suspects that they’ll be monitored if they access police officer wellness programs, they simply will not use them. 

Without the ability to access wellness support anonymously, officers worry that these resources could be used against them. Despite the immense challenges in law enforcement, the risk of judgment or potential career consequences is just too high. 

Not realizing they need support 

When stress and trauma become part of daily life, it can be easy to miss the signs that someone’s wellness is suffering. Many officers may not realize how much their chronic stress is affecting their sleep, or how countless traumatic scenes have altered their relationships. 

Without an effective law enforcement wellness program, officers may not know how to identify when they need support or how to be proactive about their own wellbeing.

Key elements of effective law enforcement wellness programs

Understanding the barriers to asking for help is the first step in breaking them down. Here are some key elements your department’s wellness program needs to address officers’ concerns and encourage them to use the resources you provide.

Complete anonymity 

First and foremost, the best way to encourage officers to use your law enforcement wellness program is to ensure complete anonymity. This makes officers feel confident and secure when they choose to seek support, knowing they won’t be reported or draw attention to themselves. By offering anonymous access to critical resources, your department empowers officers to take control of their wellbeing and career longevity. 

Comprehensive, targeted resources

A great wellness program should also have a comprehensive library of health and wellness resources. To be as effective as possible, these resources should be easy to access, available in different formats, and relevant to officers' unique challenges. 

When officers can easily access support anytime, anywhere, in the format of their choosing, they can explore resources the moment it’s on their mind. Even better, officers are more likely to take advantage of your wellness program if they know they can find support that’s targeted to their unique experiences

24/7 access to support

Officers’ challenges are not limited to their shifts – the challenges of working in law enforcement follow them everywhere they go. And, understandably, they’re likely more comfortable accessing support from the privacy of their homes after signing off from duty. 

All of this means your law enforcement wellness resources should be accessible 24/7. Providing access when it’s most convenient for officers not only makes them more likely to seek support, but it can also be essential in getting them help before they’re in crisis. 

Benefits of the PowerLine public safety app for officer wellbeing

PowerDMS’s public safety app for wellbeing, PowerLine, enhances police officer wellness programs by supporting officers and reducing barriers. With this completely anonymous app, your officers can feel confident accessing support whenever and wherever they need it. 

Comprehensive resources in the PowerLine app include a large library of wellbeing content, self-assessments for officers to identify their own challenge areas, and a designated location for your department to upload local resources. Officers can identify when they need more support and access a complete wellness solution in one convenient location.  

PowerLine also matches officers with peer volunteers through the in-app network based on rank, years of experience, and other key metrics. With this proprietary feature, PowerLine gives officers an outlet to connect with someone who knows exactly what they’re going through. 

Furthermore, without real data, law enforcement wellness programs may struggle to identify where more support is needed or to validate funds for new initiatives. With PowerLine, your department can leverage anonymized usage data in the admin dashboard. This shows your wellness team how the app is being used and which topics have the most engagement in your department, while still protecting the anonymity of your officers. 

Learn more about supporting your officers with PowerLine

With a comprehensive wellness program, your department can overcome the common barriers that often keep officers from getting the support they need. PowerLine is a powerful wellbeing tool that enhances your program by giving law enforcement professionals anonymous, 24/7 access to critical resources. What’s more, it’s also the only public safety app with a network of peer volunteers officers can access anytime. 

It’s never too late to build a culture of support and promote positive wellbeing across your department. To learn why PowerLine is among the best wellness apps for law enforcement wellbeing and how it can support your officers,

Schedule a Consultation with Our Team

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