Improve the Psychological Well-Being of Police with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“self-reported mindfulness to be associated with increased resilience and emotional intelligence and decreased negative health outcomes among police officers.” – John H. Kim
Policing is a very stressful occupation. Stress in police can result from role conflicts between serving the public, enforcing the law, and upholding ethical standards and personal responsibilities as spouse, parent, and friend. Stress also results from, threats to health and safety, boredom, responsibility for protecting the lives of others, continual exposure to people in pain or distress, the need to control emotions even when provoked, the presence of a gun, even during off-duty hours, and the fragmented nature of police work, with only rare opportunities to follow cases to conclusion or even to obtain feedback or follow-up information.
This stress can have serious consequences for the individual and in turn for society. Police officers have one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, possibly the highest. They have a high divorce rate, about second in the nation. They are problem drinkers about twice as often as the general population. This is a major problem as stress and the resultant complications can impact job performance, which sometimes involve life or death situations.
Mindfulness training has been shown to improve the physiological and psychological responses to stress and it has been found to reduce burnout in first responders. So, it is likely that mindfulness training with police can help them cope with the stress and thereby improve their quality of life and psychological well-being.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Training Improves Quality of Life and Reduces Depression and Anxiety Symptoms Among Police Officers: Results From the POLICE Study-A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7952984/ ) Trombka and colleagues recruited active police officers and randomly assigned them to a wait list control condition or to receive 8 weekly sessions of Mindfulness-Based Health Promotion (MBHP) which is based on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. It includes mindful movements, meditation, body scan, and breathing practices along with teachings on mindfulness and self-compassion and discussion. They were measured 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after training and 6 months later for quality of life, anxiety, depression, religiosity, mindfulness, self-compassion, and quality of life domains of spirituality, religiosity, and personal beliefs.
They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group, the group that received Mindfulness-Based Health Promotion (MBHP) had significantly greater quality of life, including physical health, psychological, social relationships, and environment, overall quality of life and general health facets. These improvements remained significant 6 months after the conclusion of treatment. In addition, the MBHP group had significant reductions in anxiety and depression and significant increases in self-compassion which were also still present at the 6-month follow-up. A mediation analysis revealed that MBHP improved all facets of quality of life directly and also indirectly by improving self-compassion which in turn improved the various facets of quality of life.
These are clear and important results. Mindfulness-Based Health Promotion (MBHP) produced significant improvements in the psychological well-being of the police. Mindfulness training has been previously shown to improve quality of life and self-compassion. The present study replicates these finding but also demonstrates that the improvement in self-compassion is in part responsible for the improvements in quality of life. Self-compassion involves kindness toward oneself in the face of one’s personal failings. This is important for psychological well-being especially for police who are often dealing with difficult and stressful situations. Recognizing their own imperfect humanness with kindness greatly reduce self-criticism and blame allowing them to being OK with doing the best they can,
So, improve the psychological well-being of police with mindfulness.
“The science is validating that mindfulness has the potential to increase fair and impartial policing, because we are open to recognizing our responses to a stimulus, to an event, to a person,” – Sylvia Moir
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Trombka, M., Demarzo, M., Campos, D., Antonio, S. B., Cicuto, K., Walcher, A. L., García-Campayo, J., Schuman-Olivier, Z., & Rocha, N. S. (2021). Mindfulness Training Improves Quality of Life and Reduces Depression and Anxiety Symptoms Among Police Officers: Results From the POLICE Study-A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in psychiatry, 12, 624876. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.624876
Background: Police officers’ high-stress levels and its deleterious consequences are raising awareness to an epidemic of mental health problems and quality of life (QoL) impairment. There is a growing evidence that mindfulness-based interventions are efficacious to promote mental health and well-being among high-stress occupations.
Methods: The POLICE study is a multicenter randomized controlled trial (RCT) with three assessment points (baseline, post-intervention, and 6-month follow-up) where police officers were randomized to mindfulness-based health promotion (MBHP) (n = 88) or a waiting list (n = 82). This article focuses on QoL, depression and anxiety symptoms, and religiosity outcomes. Mechanisms of change and MBHP feasibility were evaluated.
Results: Significant group × time interaction was found for QoL, depression and anxiety symptoms, and non-organizational religiosity. Between-group analysis showed that MBHP group exhibited greater improvements in QoL, and depression and anxiety symptoms at both post-intervention (QoL d = 0.69 to 1.01; depression d = 0.97; anxiety d = 0.73) and 6-month follow-up (QoL d = 0.41 to 0.74; depression d = 0.60; anxiety d = 0.51), in addition to increasing non-organizational religiosity at post-intervention (d = 0.31). Changes on self-compassion mediated the relationship between group and pre-to-post changes for all QoL domains and facets. Group effect on QoL overall health facet at post-intervention was moderated by mindfulness trait and spirituality changes.
Conclusion: MBHP is feasible and efficacious to improve QoL, and depression and anxiety symptoms among Brazilian officers. Results were maintained after 6 months. MBHP increased non-organizational religiosity, although the effect was not sustained 6 months later. To our knowledge, this is the first mindfulness-based intervention RCT to empirically demonstrate these effects among police officers. Self-compassion, mindfulness trait, and spirituality mechanisms of change are examined.