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When it comes to the criminal justice field, what is the hardest part about staying mentally healthy.

career knowledge experience criminal-justice child-psychology I am 16 and I am interested in going into the criminal justice field I was wondering if there were any major mental set backs in your career.

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Kimberly’s Answer

You have to ask for help. In law enforcement, you see people at their absolute worst. This can be hard to deal with, even if you are mentally strong. The key is talking about it. A lot of law enforcement officer's (LEO's) feel that their families don't understand what they go through, so they don't bother them with the details of their feelings. If you aren't able to share with a friend or family member, reach out to other LEO's who surely understand what you're going through. You will discover that you aren't alone and your feelings are probably very common.
It's also important to use your time off to decompress. Don't get caught up in the overtime and the appeal of making tons of money on your days off, you need to maintain a life and friendships outside of your career to mentally prepare to go back to work.

Kimberly recommends the following next steps:

Set up several ride a longs with your local police department
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Nick’s Answer

Hello Meghan! As Kimberly mentioned, when officers are busy answering calls with problem-after-problem, it is easy for cynicism to creep in. You see death and despair. You see helpless children being abused and harmed. You worry about elderly people who have no family active in their lives. And, as you go out and try to proactively enforce the law, say pull people over for traffic violations, instead of people thanking you for reminding them of the law, they yell at you that you should be catching “real” criminals.

Day after day, this wears on you. Especially on night shift, when shadows play tricks on you, and your mind races with thoughts in the silence. Your coworkers are disgruntled and share their problems too. So soon enough, you start focusing on your own problems, to share in the misery.

Staying positive and optimistic is an uphill battle. It takes daily, intentional acts to “work out” and “program” that part of your brain. It can be done though! Communicating with people as fellow human beings helps. When they see the “humanity” of an officer, they can relate. But when officers hide behind their badge and identity as a law enforcer, they separate themselves from the communities they serve. Mental wellness is everyone’s job. Not only do you take care of yourself, but you seek to help others as well. Regular counseling appointments help too! They are needed and should not be considered bad at all.

Finally, regularly remembering the good stuff helps too. The kids that want to give you hugs and high-fives. The citizens that buy your meals. The residents that bring goodies to the station as well. And, the good bosses that grow and develop you all help keep a positive mindset.

I hope this helps answer your questions. Good luck with your career path!

Nick recommends the following next steps:

Read “Positive Mental Attitude” materials
Find hobbies & friends outside of public safety
Stay physically fit
Study & develop time management skills
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Valerie’s Answer

Meghan, I am not sure in what capacity you are interested in being apart of the criminal justice system. I am an attorney who has worked as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. As an attorney, you have to zealously advocate, but when you leave the office, leave work there. If you are the prayerful type, pray for them. If not (or even if you are) just remember that you are not the one in that situation. You are not going the one going to jail!
Best of luck with your career journey!!
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Andy’s Answer

The hardest part of staying mentally healthy in this field is to know when you need to ask for outside help and when to say enough is enough. In this career, you end up seeing people at their worst and many different tragic situations most especially with kids and elderly people. The worst thing members of the criminal justice professionals can do is to keep all their emotions buried and let them build. In the 15 years I have been in law enforcement, I have seen officers ruin their careers over not asking for help.

Deputy Andy Kessler