“What type of resources would have been useful?” That was the question posed to me during a recent interview. I participated in the creation of an online training program targeted towards police officers. I answered questions about mental illness and police culture.
I have deeply personal experience in this area. My first wife was a police officer. She took her own life after a long battle with bipolar disorder. I know police culture and what it creates for people struggling with mental illness.
Back to the question. What resources would have been useful?
Here are a few:
- Leaders more concerned for the human beings on their teams than career advancement.
- An organization with a radically different view of what constitutes true strength.
- Recognition that to be vulnerable is to be courageous.
- Leaders and peers that were willing to tell more of their stories
- The knowledge that her career wasn’t over.
- An opportunity for meaningful work outside of front line policing.
- People who said fuck it to official programs and processes when they get in the way of our humanity.
Imagine if those resources were available. Would it have changed the tragic outcome? I don’t think so. But I know it would have eased her pain. There are countless other Cindy’s suffering right now. What will you do for them? Not someone else. Not a new program. Not a different process. What will you do today?
In the end she was broken and on her knees, too weary to fight. She knew she would be ostracized and judged and that her career was over. Without those fears then perhaps she could have stood a little taller.
Dignity is one of the greatest gifts we can bestow on those that no longer feel worthy. We all have it within our power to give.
Mental illness exacts a terrible toll on everyone it touches. It reminds us of how fragile we all are. Share your story. The bonds we form strengthen us all.
Share your story. Lay down your shield and you will become invincible.