Corrections Officers and Mental Health

Corrections officers are tasked with controlling the most dangerous people in the world, all while remaining professional and responsible. This herculean task is enough to bring even the toughest person face to face with situations that can be life changing. It is no wonder, then, that corrections officers often deal with a wide variety of moderate and severe mental health issues as a result of the stress of the job and work related incidences.

According to a recent survey, which was cited in a 2012 Associated Press article, 31 percent of corrections officers show signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is compared with a rate of just 3.5 percent prevalence of PTSD among the general population, meaning that the rate of the psychological disorder is nearly 9 times higher among corrections officers.

Surprisingly, the rate of PTSD symptoms among corrections officers is even higher than that of Iraq war veterans, which is reported to be 20 percent.

The reasons for the high level of PTSD among corrections officers are various. But exposure to personal danger, violence, death, and the often inhumane conditions inside federal, state, and local prisons, are all contributing factors. The earlier cited study concluded that corrections officers are exposed to the same levels of violence and deadly events as first responders, such as firemen and policemen, and may even experience a greater number of situations in which they are personally subjected to violence. It is thought that these situations, which put corrections officers personally in harm’s way, are the major reasons for their job related mental health issues.

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Given these statistics, it is clear that corrections officers require access to adequate mental health facilities if they are to be able to perform their jobs properly, and avoid suffering long term psychological repercussions as a result of their work. As officials become increasingly aware of the mental toll this kind of profession can take upon an individual, implementation of support programs may help reduce the negative mental health consequences of being a corrections officer.

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