May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of mental health and the impact it has on our overall well-being. While we all experience various levels of stress from time to time that can impact our mental health, professions like first responders and security professionals, may be especially vulnerable due to the nature of their work which can take a toll on their mental health on and off the job.
From my experience, security professionals are exposed to a range of incidents from stabbings, domestic violence, car accidents, to murder which can be extremely traumatizing. They must respond quickly to incidents, placing their own safety at risk, and then must continue with their daily routines without any counseling or support. This can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amongst others.
While working at a club years ago, my officers responded to gunfire in an adjacent parking lot, only to find a man on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head. The impact of this incident made them question the work they were doing. As difficult as it was for nearly 6 years, I continued security for 5 to 6 clubs experiencing multiple assaults and life-altering incidents non-stop.
Turning off emotions in this line of work may be successful until one starts a family. You may turn them off, but they never go away. Emotions eventually resurface, leading to reflections of haunting experiences. It can be challenging dealing with so many traumatic events.
A sweet “I love you” from my wife and “I love you Daddy” from my daughter gets me through the tough days. Dealing with the constant reminder of one’s past can last a lifetime but having trust in God gives hope to an otherwise hopeless situation.
It is important to note that being alone is not the answer to becoming better. Talking to a spouse or trusted friend about experiences and fears can help alleviate some of the mental anguish. Seeking support from mental health professionals can also prove beneficial, one-on-one counseling or group therapy that allows security professionals to decompress and discuss experiences. Many have also found meditation to be a helpful method in overcoming stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Mental Health Awareness Month is all about supporting your mental wellness. That means finding the right types of support you need for your mind, body, and spirit to flourish. Mental health is good health and should be a top priority for all of us.