OnPolicing Blog

988 Lifeline is a Key Resource for Law Enforcement

July 25, 2022

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Caroline Huffaker, M.S., M.Ed. 

Senior Program Manager at the National Policing Institute

Screen Shot 2022-07-25 at 5.08.37 PM

Caroline Huffaker, M.S., M.Ed. 

Senior Program Manager at the National Policing Institute

In 1983, Dr. Arlie Russell Hochschild coined the term emotional labor after she examined two occupations, flight attendants and bill collectors, whose job descriptions centered largely on engaging with the public (1). At the end of her study, Dr. Hochschild concluded that these occupations require an individual to manage their feelings and emotions that occur as a result of the work that they are engaged in. This term and corresponding sociological concept have been studied and applied widely since its inception. And it is easy to see how the concept of emotional labor can easily be found in a myriad of professional roles and settings, including law enforcement and public safety. The amount of emotional fortitude that it takes to do the daily work of public safety professionals in today’s day and age cannot be underscored.

It is no secret that those who serve their communities by way of police work are exposed to traumatic events at a higher rate than the average citizen (2). And as such, these individuals report increased rates of mental health challenges, including post-traumatic stress, substance use and abuse, suicidal ideation, as well as depression (3). The emotional labor that comes with the job coupled with the increased exposure to trauma is significant. So much so, that extensive effort has been made to support and address the needs of those of the front line. In 2021, the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act program invested over $7 million dollars (4) into law enforcement agencies across the United States through grants, which has resulted in programs focused on the implementation of peer support teams, streamlining access to training and resources, assessing for the needs for families of first responders, growth and sustainability for ongoing law enforcement wellness programs and producing a whole host of other best practices for the field. And while this system’s level change is welcomed and embraced by the field as a whole, an individual reading this very blog might want to know what resources and supports can meet them right where they are. Perhaps from the comfort and privacy of their very own living room.

Just last week another resource became widely available with the implementation of the National 988 Lifeline. This hotline, which is a collaborative effort between community providers, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, as well State and Federal governments, now provides citizens across our country with a 24/7 hotline that can address a wide range of mental health needs, including substance use, suicidal thoughts, and mental health crises. This includes members of the law enforcement community, not only a resource and tool for them in the professional sense but also in a personal capacity. Knowing the toll that the profession can take on one’s health, and the emotional labor that is required each day as you protect and serve, this hotline is for you, too. It can provide a safe and confidential lifeline to those who need it. Speaking with the professionals on the other end might be the steppingstone that an officer needs to reach out to their department’s peer support program or to seek assistance from a local provider in their community. It might be the first time that an officer has had someone acknowledge the depth of their experience and the toll that this laboring, this hard work of public service, has had on them as individuals. Consider the 988 Lifeline as another tool on your personal duty belt. It’s a resource that supports you in being a safe, healthy, and well-rounded law enforcement officer so that you may continue to serve in this noble profession.

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(1) Hochschild, A. R., & Ebook Central – Academic Complete (2012). The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling (3rd ed.,Revised ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press.
(2) Hartley, T. A., Violanti, J. M., Sarkisian, K., Andrew, M. E., & Burchfiel, C. M. (2013). PTSD symptoms among police officers: Associations with frequency, recency, and types of traumatic events. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, 15(4), 241–253.
(3) Baker, L. D., Stroman, J. C., Kalantar, E. A., Bock, R. C., & Berghoff, C. R. (2022). Indirect associations between posttraumatic stress symptoms and other psychiatric symptoms, alcohol use, and well-being via psychological flexibility among police officers. Journal of Traumatic Stress. 35(1), 55–65. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22677
(4) U.S. Department of Justice. (2021, October 14). Justice Department Announces Funding to Promote Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness [Press release]. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-announces-funding-promote-law-enforcement-mental-health-and-wellness

 

 

Additional Resources:

988 Lifelinehttps://988lifeline.org/current-events/the-lifeline-and-988/

NAMIhttps://nami.org/Home

SAMHSA General SAMHSA Infohttps://www.samhsa.gov/ 988 Resources – https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988

Blue H.E.L.Phttps://bluehelp.org/

VALOR – Officer Safety & Wellness Programhttps://www.valorforblue.org/

The Institute Strategic Priority – Officer Safety & Wellness https://www.policinginstitute.org/officer-safety-wellness-and-healthy-police-organizations/

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Screen Shot 2022-07-25 at 5.08.37 PM

Caroline Huffaker, M.S., M.Ed. 

Senior Program Manager at the National Policing Institute

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