"Police marriages can be strained, police families can be confusing and police shifts can leave officers and spouses drained. Putting some form of spousal education in place can help police marriages stand on a more solid foundation of knowledge and hope, benefiting the family, the officer and the agency." Linda Seitz/Co-Founder of the Huntington Beach Police Department's Support for Officers' Spouses group (HBPD SOS)
Recently, I was asked by the International Association of Chief's of Police (IACP) to write an article for the Police Chief magazine to enhance the "Officer Wellness" information in their recent edition. I didn't have to think very long on what topic I wanted to bring to the forefront.
"Educating the Police Spouse" is at the heart and soul of who I am as a 30+ year wife of a law enforcement officer. Not only am I well aware of the ups and downs of officer wellness, but as the co-founder of the Huntington Beach Police Department's Spousal Support Group (SOS), I do research on many topics that have to do with police officer wellness. Lately, the statistics have been a bit concerning regarding the mental health of officers and spouses that have experienced PTSD or Vicarious Trauma.
Now, I am not an expert in this field by any stretch of the imagination. I am just like you - wife, mom and family gal that happens to have a husband that is a police officer. Police wives have a sort of "sixth sense" when it comes to the mood that our officers may come home wearing after any given shift. We can take the temperature of the room and just "know" that something went awry today. We hurt for them, we try to get them to connect and communicate, but there are so many factors we just don't know and couldn't process if we tried.
Sometimes they just don't want to share their burden because they want their home life to be the calm place they can rest in. Sometimes they can't share because the trauma is just too big and they haven't even processed it themselves yet. And sometimes, they are unable to realize that the trauma even impacted them because their "bucket" is just too full. The path of least resistance for the pain they've been dealing with can sometimes rear its ugly head in the way of drug and alcohol abuse or to seek an ever-familiar adrenaline dump by way of living life in a risky manner. I don't even want to mention the topic of police suicide, but the numbers are up - the 2018 report claimed that more police officers died by suicide than on duty incidents.
I wrote the article on "Educating the Police Spouse" because I felt that there was just not enough information that spouses could pull from regarding the signs and symptoms of PTSD for the officer and Vicarious Trauma signs within the family unit. Yes, the officer faces many calls during their shift, and many of those can create an enormous amount of trauma. But, do we realize as spouses that we can be affected by the stories, the worry, the schedules, the missed birthdays, the late call outs and lack of sleep because we were waiting for the "rip of the velcro" or the "clanging of the keys" that keep us from laying our head contentedly on our pillows?
Let's begin the process of recognizing what trauma looks like when lived out on a daily basis. Let's try and begin a routine of self-nurturing. Setting aside time to nurture ourselves and encouraging our officers to do the same. Please know that we can't prevent a person from taking their own life, but we can educate ourselves enough to see the minor symptoms that could lead to a major decision.
If you are the spouse of an officer, please contact us as we have a private facebook page you can join. We also have instructions on how you can begin your own spousal support group for your city. (HBPDSOS@gmail.com) Please also tap the link above to read the entire Police Chief Magazine article.
For more information regarding police intervention, please visit "Help For Police". . This website is filled with resources for the officer and the family and has proven to be most helpful for many situations.
Grace and Peace, Linda