You’re Married to a Cop: Ways to Help your Spouse Deal with Stress & Trauma
Many are aware of the stressful careers that first responders have. They encounter high stress situations on a daily basis over many years. Over time that stress builds and gets compacted. What stress really is is change. It can be positive or negative in your life. Stressors activate the change like marriage, divorce, your job, etc. The build up of day to day can eventually turn into trauma, forming a more emotional reaction to stress.
The stress & trauma our officers deal with is noticed and often discussed. What isn’t talked about enough is HOW to recognize these signs and how to help first responders deal with the stress & trauma they encounter. There is a lack of support for law enforcement officer’s and their families, but we have found two wonderful organizations dedicated to offering support for law enforcement. It is just a matter of bringing awareness to the law enforcement community.
I had the honor of speaking with Susan Simons, a leading expert in the field of stress management for public safety and emergency services. She has provided training and services for law enforcement since 1994. Ms. Simons says, “police officer stressors are like garbage in a garbage can.” The idea is, if you don’t empty your garbage can at home, it begins to smell and become full. The same goes for your “psychological garbage can” which is filled with personal and professional stressors as a law enforcement officer. If the officer does not empty his “garbage can” then it will also become “very stinky and full.”
What are the signs?
There are early warning signs that your officer’s “psychological garbage can” may be filling up. You live the day to day with your spouse so, typically, you would be the first person to recognize changes in your spouse’s behavior. Ms. Simons describes the early signs and symptoms to look for: irritability, poor attitude, isolating him or herself, increase in alcohol, less sleep, cynicism. As time goes on the “garbage can” reaches capacity and further harm can be done to the body. These symptoms include: heartburn and acid reflux, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal issues.
No spouse wants to see their officer display symptoms of stress and trauma, so the next step is getting help. But where can you go to find support?
Resources & Support
Up until a few weeks ago, I too, was not aware of the all the resources available for our officers. It is important to make these services known to the law enforcement community and let you know, that as a police wife, services are available for you, also.
Under the Shield:
Susan Simons, the Founder of Under the Shield, and her team, saw a need for support within the law enforcement community, too. They help not only law enforcement, but all first responders, including military, by educating, supporting, and giving services too.
Under the Shield offers 24-hour support and puts you in contact with an expert that is most related to your field and specific need. Under the Shield is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) corporation. Even more incredible is that their services over the phone are FREE of charge. You can also speak to them anonymously.
Under the Shield offers a variety of services. As a police wife, you can also receive help. Stress coaching is available for you and your spouse. Stress coaching can be for the entire family or the individual and services are tailored to specific or family need.
Under the Shield also offers a Warrior Survival training where they go into state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies to provide seminars on stress management. This is a training the police wife can even attend!
Call toll-free (855)866-9775
The Badge of Life:
The Badge of Life is another wonderful organization that gives support to those suffering from stress and trauma. They are also a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization. The Badge of Life offers many programs and trainings as listed on their website that aids in stress management. I suggest looking into The Badge of Life’s website, as it is very informative and debunks many myths associated with law enforcement.
Remember, every first responder will experience stress. That is normal. But the build up of stress and how it is dealt with is when these resources may become necessary.
Code 9 Project:
The Code 9 Project is another 501 (c) (3) that offers training for departments and staff, first responders and their families, stress reduction workshops and more. Their mission is to make mental health of first responders (and their families) a priority by making support and resources readily available to those who need it.
The Code 9 Project has also created a film titled The Code 9 Film. It is a moving documentary about law enforcement, stress, and PTSD.
In case you missed it at the top of this page, the information written in this article is not medical advice, just research presented by the author (not a doctor). I am not a doctor nor do I have a medical background in any way. Please read our full disclaimer and disclosure policy.
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