More and more psychologists working with stressed or traumatized police officers

The approach is classic and essential: the day after the suicide of a neighborhood officer using his service weapon, in his Haine-Saint-Paul police station in La Louvière, his colleagues received psychological help.

Talk, exchange, hear advice, recommendations from a specialized unit …

This support complements the preventions already formulated at the police academy, during the training: "and ideally repeated at every stage of the career."

Sudden fragility

Doctor in psychology, first assistant in the forensic psychopathology service at UMons, Audrey Vicenzutto co-authored a study on the emotional experience of Belgian police officers in the face of traumatic events:

"We are working on potentially traumatic events on the ground. But it is difficult to be certain about the development of mental disorders."

"Even an experienced police officer can be suddenly weakened in the face of an event that he has already known. Why? Because there may be other factors specific to the individual in a particular context at a time of his life."

Or an unfortunately usual event which takes on another dimension.

Road accidents

One of the first two studies (the third is in progress) on the emotional experience of police officers places trauma first, before suicides, fatal road accidents:

"There may be a phenomenon of identification with one of the victims, if they are children for example." And that the police officer is himself the father of a family, the policewoman herself a mother.

"Police officers are confronted with death, violence, mistreatment, all very traumatic elements", continues Audrey Vicenzutto.

Dramatizing an event requires quick expression.

Talk to your colleagues, or during a debriefing, especially if a whole group has been affected.

During these studies, already with 152 police officers from nine areas of Hainaut (and soon to Brussels), the researchers found that more and more area leaders are putting in place a process of psychological support.

"Further research would be useful on the profile, age, function of traumatized agents."

Fewer suicides

Since 2015, police suicides have halved to now fall within the national average by occupation (1)

Last full year, 2019 shows nine suicides, three for the first quarter of 2020.

But a researcher does not draw any conclusions, which considers any relevant analysis over a cycle of twenty years.

(1) A prevention center is accessible 24 hours a day: it is "SOS suicides".

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