As I have written before regarding the importance of Security Officers, I thought that this article would shed light on how stressful the job can be, and how unfortunate situations can arise.
As a member of Private Officers International, what we try to do is promote awareness regarding the importance of Security Guards, and the need for more advanced training.
Five security officers have committed suicide during the past three weeks.
While shocking, it is not uncommon among law enforcement, the military, emergency workers or those who work in high stressed and dangerous jobs, or in positions where life and death is the norm.
In fact, more law enforcement officers die at their own hand than are killed in the line of duty, according to the Badge of Life Mental Health Foundation. While many may not think of private security officers as emergency responders or working in high risk environments, the fact is, today’s private protectors are involved in hundreds of armed confrontations, thousands of assaults where they become the victim, and respond to every type of incident, emergency or chaotic situation that you can imagine. Often they are thrust into do or die moments where they must make split second decisions that they are often not trained or prepared for.
Security officers today have become the new first responders here in America and around the world, and with this comes pressures and stresses that this industry and its workers have never before experienced. Coupled with the daily stressors of life, poor wages, long hours and work shifts that often include overnight, week-end and holidays, security officers now find themselves with their back against the wall with no one to talk to and nowhere to turn. Such was the case of one security officer who took his own life three weeks ago while on duty. Facing divorce, the loss of his home and financial hardships, he reported for work and within seventeen minutes was dead of a gunshot to the head. And just thirty miles north, in the capitol city of our country, another onduty security officer ended his life the same way on top of a federal building he was hired to protect. Facing relationship issues and possible criminal charges, the man chose his duty weapon for his source of resolution. And during the next few weeks that followed, security officers in Florida, Michigan and another one in Washington DC also ended their lives.
Law enforcement officers often turn to alcohol and illegal substances, sex or gambling to forget what they’ve seen and the pain that they feel, at least for a little while, and many become addicted, depressed and feel alone. The divorce rate among police officers and emergency responders is high as are the feelings that nobody cares and no
one understands. They do what they do, putting life and limb on the line every day for the public and yet, they suffer alone.
As a law enforcement veteran, emergency responder and certified emergency service Chaplain, I have personally been on both sides of the road. I have felt what they felt, and been where they have been. I have talked to many officers, and know the issues that they face and the feeling that no one cares, no one is listening and no one understands. More than 100 security officers die on duty each year, many suffer horrific deaths and yet, generally, there is no recognition, no outcry and an overall feeling that no one cares.
As security officers continue to be used to patrol large communities and public spaces, responding to medical emergencies and crimes in progress, and as they continue to engage armed and wanted criminals while becoming the new front line of Homeland Security, and the whole observe and report model of the security industry continues shifting
to a more proactive rather than reactive method of doing business, remember the person performing those duties.
Recognize signs of stress, show empathy and true concerns for the employee and give your workers an avenue to talk to someone beyond your office. Whether that someone be a workplace chaplain, a counselor, an emergency helpline or an employee assistance program, it makes no difference as long as it’s conveyed that they are not alone. An employee
who feels valued and who is recognized for their efforts, loyalty or for going above and beyond, not only becomes a loyal and dedicated employee, they become one who feels like they are not alone when a crises comes their way. After all, without employees, there is no business.
Suicides can be prevented if we’re willing to look beyond the facade of the person, see their inner being, and are receptive to changes in the person’s daily routines, attitude, moods or changes. Security officers and emergency responders have more in common than you might realize, and it’s important to understand and to work with the many different problems and life issues that our employees encounter. We can avert the use of drastic measures on the part of someone who feels alone, depressed, unappreciated and trapped.
By: Jim Doyle, owner of Madison Security Group