Seven and a half hours of boredom, plus 30 minutes of terror.
That’s how Dr. Michael Spierer, a Madison-based psychologist, describes the typical police officer’s shift. Eight hours of paperwork and petty crime, with the knowledge that a high-pressure and dangerous turn of events may be just around the corner. Chronic stress is inherent to the job, he says.
In an effort to help officers cope, the Wisconsin Center for Healthy Minds and the Madison Police Department have teamed up for a pilot study to research the effects of mindfulness practices, including yoga and meditation, on officers’ mental health.
While this type of research is relatively new, some officers practice mindfulness techniques in their personal lives, and have found it’s made them better at their jobs. Madison Detective Samantha Kellogg started practicing yoga and meditation about 10 years ago, and she’s excited to see mindfulness potentially take on a bigger role for officers.
“The transformation I’ve seen in myself in dealing with day-to-day stress has made a remarkable difference,” she says. “In any given situation, I can go to my breath, and it can affect my ability to think and my ability to control the trauma response that so many officers and first responders fear, from the heart rate, to the adrenaline jump, to just processing it. There are so many things that affect you with that ongoing build of day-to-day stress, this is just a positive tool to deal with it.”
According to Capt. Kristen Roman, the department’s point person for the study, nine out of 10 officers will experience a traumatic event of some kind in their first years on the job. She’s hopeful that the department could eventually teach these mindfulness strategies at the police academy, so that new recruits can begin their careers with these skills already under their belts.
Roman says that while there’s been plenty of research on mindfulness training and stress reduction in other arenas, it’s never been studied in-depth for policing.
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[For more of this story, written by Elisa Wiseman, go to http://isthmus.com/news/news/m...n-in-a-new-uw-study/]