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Stress... Killer Or Protector Essay

1721 words - 7 pages

Stress is a term used by many, is somewhat misunderstood, and often used to describe a negative condition or emotional state. People experience various forms of stress at home, work, in social settings, and when engaged in activities to simply have fun, such as playing sports. Police officer's experience stresses the same as others, but also in ways much different than the average citizen. The dangers, violence, and tragedy seen by officers result in added levels of stress not experienced by the general population.
What is Stress? Stress is not a new phenomenon; it has been experienced throughout history. Stress is a biological response to some stimulus. Fear, panic, anger, tragedy, and ...view middle of the document...

If we take a quick overview of police work and look at the research we can see what are some the biggest stresses. Having you partner killed in the line of duty, lack of support by the department/bosses, shiftwork and disruption of family time/family rituals and the daily grind of dealing with the stupidity of the public (Adams 399). The police officer, under the stress of responding to an armed robbery or a break-in heightens their awareness of surroundings, increase the perception of sight, smell and sound, and draw on their training and experience in approaching the scene or searching a building creating stress (Adams 400). Interestingly, physical danger is ranked low on the list of stresses by police officers! 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 (Constant). Suicide is one of the worst effects that stress can have on police officers.
We are becoming all too familiar with police suicide especially with the attention it gets from the media. In New York City, twice as many police officers die by their own hand as do in the line of duty (Finn)! The suggested reason, higher stress levels. What is going on? 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). All four factors are symptoms that can stem from an officer's stress levels (Brown). An Officer who get in serious trouble on the job, suspended or facing termination is 7 times more likely to commit suicide.
Police suicide is more directly related to relationship problems than to job stress! Of the last 14 suicides among the police officers in New York City, 12, or 86%, had to do with divorce or relationship breakup (Brown). Police officers going through a divorce are 5 times more likely to commit suicide than officers in a stable marriage are! Relationship problems, however, are highly related to job stress. So we see that stress has a profound effect on police officers lives, especially their home lives. Studies have called police work a "high risk lifestyle (Brown)." Not high risk in terms of the physical dangers of the job, but high risk in terms of developing attitude problems, behavioral problems, and intimacy and relationship problems. According to an article on the Effects of Stress on Police Officers, by Peter Finn, M.A., if you ask the average cop "Hey, what's been the scariest experience during your police career?" They will answer "My first marriage (Finn)!" All research shows police suffer a substantially higher divorce rate with estimates ranging from 60 to...

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