Being a police officer is a very stressful job.
Being human can be pretty stressful as well.
Combine the two and the effects on the human mind can be frightening.
Local residents saw it firsthand recently when a Jamestown police officer, threatened to harm himself with a gun in his home. Ellicott, Jamestown, Lakewood-Busti, the State Police and the Sheriff's Department responded to the incident. First responders from Celoron also were dispatched. After nearly three hours, the officer came out of the house and was taken to the Lake Shore Health Care Center for treatment.
A 2012 University at Buffalo study of officers in the Buffalo Police Department published by the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health says there are connections between the daily stresses of police work and obesity, suicide, sleeplessness and cancer, as well as general health disparities between police officers and the general population.
Of the 464 officers surveyed, more than 25 percent suffered from metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk for developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes; female and male officers experiencing the highest level of self-reported stress were four and six times more likely to have poor sleep quality, respectively; and suicide rates were more than eight times higher in working officers than they were in officers who had retired or left the police force.
While Jamestown sees less violent crime than a city like Buffalo or Syracuse, Jamestown police officers are still dealing with unsavory situations every day. Police officers are the ones called when a child is found living in squalid conditions, who see firsthand the effect of drugs on the community and who deal every day with the possibility of a dangerous situation on the job affecting them for the rest of their lives.
The fact that there aren't more situations like the recent standoff in Jamestown is a miracle.
While police officers have access to health care, the potential culture of a police department doesn't make it easy for an officer to admit it when stress is taking its toll. It's especially difficult when the personal problems that affect us all are coupled with the stresses of a demanding job.
The events surrounding the Jamestown officer's entrance into treatment should be a wakeup call for area police officers and police department leaders.
We all need help sometimes. There is nothing wrong, nothing weak, nothing abnormal, about it.
Not even for police officers.