VACP Releases Preliminary Virginia Results of National Wellness Survey for Public Safety Personnel
VACP Executive Director Dana Schrad
Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard
The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police today is releasing the preliminary Virginia results from the National Wellness Survey for Public Safety Personnel. The survey includes voluntary responses from police, fire and rescue, EMS, dispatch, corrections, and military personnel. The objective is to assess the impact of public safety work on individual wellbeing. The National Survey data collection was facilitated by the U.S. Marshals Service. A final report is expected later this year.
The Virginia results of the survey indicate the need for a wide variety of resources to assist in diagnosing and treating our officers who are struggling in silence from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
"It is imperative that resources are developed to treat those who need help now," said VACP Past President and Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard. "Additional resources are needed in the early stages of an officer's career to prevent the damaging effects from traumatic exposures. By maintaining the health and wellness of our first responders, we avoid reproducing a new generation of law enforcement officers and other public safety personnel who struggle daily."
"Funding for mental health treatment must be a priority for the state if we are committed to ensuring the health and wellness of our officers as they protect and care for the safety of our communities," said VACP Executive Director Dana Schrad. "Senate Bill 289, which would have added anxiety, depression and PTSD as treatable conditions under workers' compensation, was passed unanimously by the Virginia Senate. Unfortunately, the legislation died due to lack of funding."
The VACP sincerely thanks Governor Glenn Youngkin for recognizing the critical need for mental health support for first responders by making a generous personal donation to the VA Law Enforcement Assistance Program (VALEAP), which provides invaluable peer support services and training to our law enforcement officers throughout the state.
FULL SUMMARY OF VIRGINIA RESULTS (PDF)
WELLNESS SURVEY INSTRUMENT OVERVIEW (PDF)
OFFICER SAFETY & WELLNESS RESOURCES
Key Statistics from the Virginia Summary of Responses
- Survey sent to 13,261 – 2,635 completed (20% across all first responders)
- Significant number of participants aborted survey at trauma-related questions
- Top 3 duty-related traumas reported: accidental death, serious assault/non-accidental death, and suicide
- 19% received clinical scores indicating levels of moderate to severe depression
- 20% received clinical scores indicating moderate to severe levels of anxiety
- 12% received scores representing clinical significance on PTSD assessment
- 21% indicated problems with alcohol
- 8% reported experiencing thoughts of passive suicide ideation (thoughts of suicide/self-harm, but no plan to carry it out)
- 4% reported experiencing thoughts of active suicide ideation (thoughts of suicide/self-harm and a plan to carry it out)
Of those law enforcement respondents who received scores of clinical significance, how many were NOT formally diagnosed by a professional?
- For depression, 69% not formally diagnosed
- For anxiety, 74% not formally diagnosed
- For PTSD, 73% not formally diagnosed
Of those who sought behavioral health assistance…
- 16% reported using Peer Support
- 17% reported using in-house psychologists or counselors
- 6% reported using in-house psychiatrist
Why the reluctance to seek help?
- Wanted to handle it on their own
- Fears it would impact career, future employment, or security clearance
- Concerns about confidentiality
- Stigma – concerns of appearing weak
- “Just the way I am – I don't ask for help”