How to Combat Law Enforcement Burnout

Illustration by Chelsie Walter

Illustration by Chelsie Walter


Two types of stressors are common among police officers—environmental stress and organizational stress. Although each type is different, both stressors lead to emotional reactions, negative actions and even suicidal thoughts.  

Police officers may witness trauma, loss, death and destruction on a daily basis. According to a 2015 Badge of Life study, 70 percent of police officers have stress-based physical health problems, 40 percent suffer from sleep disorders, and 33 percent of active duty and retired police have PTSD. Those who are incarcerated may face similar health problems. So how do individuals cope with stress and trauma? The answer starts with recognition and self-care — no matter who you are.  

Here are a few ways to recognize chronic stress/burnout:

• Excessive blaming

• Isolation from others

• Substance abuse

• Compulsive behaviors

• Poor hygiene

• Recurrence of nightmares and flashbacks to traumatic event

• Apathy, sad, no longer finds activities pleasurable

• Mentally and physically tired

What can we do about it?

Self-care. There are organizational programs available, but the awareness starts with you.

• Be kind to yourself (start with one affirmation a day)

• Enhance your awareness with education (reading RISE or internet research)

• Accept where you are on your path at all times (non-judgement)

• Listen to others who are suffering (find common humanity)

• Clarify your personal boundaries (what works for you and what doesn't)

• Take positive action to change your environment (if you cannot change it, evolve your view of it).