Psychological stress in everyday police work

By Yannick GaaschLex KlerenMarc Lazzarini Switch to German for original article

On average, police officers are confronted with more violence and death each year than most people are in their entire lives. And it is not only in law enforcement that many causes of psychological stress lurk. How can those be helped, who put their mental health at risk in their work?

The Police Grand-Ducale is one of the largest employers in Luxembourg with almost 3,030 employees (as of 2022, of which around 660 are civilians). At the same time, the police are one of the professional groups most exposed to psychological stress factors. As a police officer, you have to put yourself in many roles, while the expectations are high and the room for error is small. And even when police officers do everything right, there is always room for criticism. Or have you never been upset about a police stop at the wrong moment?

Distressing emotions

Marc Stein is the head of the psychological service of the Luxembourg police (Service psychologique, abbreviation SPSY). He and his unit of two other psychologists and a police officer offer preventative measures and voluntary counselling for all police officers. So far, the force is in a good position as long as the number of people in need of therapy does not continue to grow. In his 26 years with the SPSY, Stein has witnessed a lot and was willing to explain to the Lëtzebuerger Journal how the help for the helpers is going.

On the same day as the interview with Marc Stein, an interview on police violence with Marlène Negrini, President of the police union, was published, so this promptly became a topic of discussion. "Police violence is a highly polarising topic that immediately encourages subjective and very partisan interpretations from all sides, " Stein explains to us, "in Hesse, for example, they have introduced loudspeaker units at demonstrations that immediately inform demonstrators of arrests, along the lines of 'five people were arrested over there because they smashed windows'." Police violence is nothing out of the ordinary. It could also happen that it is not justified. Who can say that they haven't flipped out before, whether in traffic or at home, verbally or physically? Resolving conflicts without outbursts is not always possible.

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