In Maryland, Helping Correctional Officers Improve Mental Health
Some experts say encouraging supervisors to discuss such issues, educating officers about available resources and eliminating the stigma that comes with asking for help can allow correctional facilities to address mental health struggles among their employees and other first responders before they get to a breaking point.
In late September, the Anne Arundel County Department of Detention Facilities, Recovery Centers of America and Anne Arundel County Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team held a training seminar to shine a light on poor mental health among correctional officers and the use of substances as a coping mechanism.
“As with all public safety, you don’t realize the trauma we go through,” says Lt. Steven Thomas, law enforcement coordinator for Anne Arundel County’s Crisis Intervention Team and one of the presenters at the event.
“If we have an officer, say they respond to a horrific incident and they get blood on their uniform.
Most times, I can tell an officer, ‘Go home and change your clothes and get a shower. Get fresh and then come back and we’re going to do something to take care of that,'” he says. For correctional officers, though, “they are locked in the facility, and they don’t have that freedom” to leave and recover a little after a traumatic event.
Carol Simmons, clinical director for Recovery Centers of America’s Maryland Center for Addiction Treatment, says the reluctance to talk about behavioral and mental health issues, as well as substance abuse, among correctional officers and first responders has to do with the nature of their jobs.
“Their belief is that they are charged with taking care of others,” says Simmons, who spoke at the event. Treatment forces them to loosen those boundaries, she says, “so that they could see themselves as a group of folks who are also vulnerable … and certainly worthy of being taken care of.”
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