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People often end up in the criminal justice system due to psychiatric conditions. At least half of prisoners live with psychiatric concerns, but up to 25% have a serious mental illness. This is a troubling statistic, but mental health issues from working with criminal offenders can also arise. This means anyone from corrections officials to psychiatrists can suffer psychologically.

Mending Fences at Transformations has a staff of certified professionals committed to helping clients from all walks of life. Perhaps you dealt with military prisoners as an MP, or maybe you provided counseling for offenders who suffered sexual abuse. Regardless of your specific situation, it’s possible to experience trauma in these lines of work.

Understand that it’s okay to reach out for help, and contact us at Mending Fences today.

Psychological Impacts of Working with Criminal Offenders

There are many events that can cause PTSD, but did you know that working with criminal offenders can be one of them? We usually envision soldiers in war zones when we think of posttraumatic stress disorder, but this is far from the only situation that can lead to the condition. Unfortunately, working in criminal justice in any respect can lead to trauma.

Consider the following types of trauma and who may experience them:

Direct Trauma

Also known as primary trauma, direct trauma occurs when an individual experiences a distressing event first-hand. This is what most people think of when they envision PTSD. Being confronted, experiencing, or witnessing a traumatic incident can all cause significant stress and long-term consequences.

This is frequently seen among police and correctional officers working with criminal offenders. About 28% of officers experience four or more direct traumatic incidents over their careers. This can involve prison riots, on-duty shootings, inmate deaths, or assaults on prisoners, staff, other officers, or oneself. Non-officer staff can also encounter these situations

Any of these events can cause stress, trauma, anxiety, and a variety of additional mental health conditions. In many instances, officers and other professionals respond to these issues by taking drugs. This can lead to co-morbid disorders — each of which can make the others more difficult to treat.

Secondary Trauma

Of the many types of trauma, secondary trauma may be the most misunderstood. Rather than experiencing a direct traumatic event, a person can develop PTSD symptoms by being exposed to those who have gone through trauma. This puts counselors, first responders, prison nurses, social workers, and even mental healthcare professionals at risk from working with criminal offenders.

This type of trauma can occur in a variety of ways. For instance, listening to an inmate describe childhood abuse could cause secondary trauma. While this form of trauma often gets discussed in relation to non-police officials, officers are also susceptible to these issues. Over 44% of community corrections officers deal with secondary trauma.

Additionally, more than half of officers experience vicarious trauma — which can result from empathetic engagement with criminal offenders. Regardless of your specific job title, though, this exposure doesn’t even have to occur with current prisoners. For instance, courts may require individuals to undergo mandatory psychological or psychiatric treatment as a term of their release.

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Effects of Trauma from Working with Criminal Offenders

Trauma developed when working with criminal offenders can lead to an array of negative outcomes. And since 85% of correctional staff have witnessed someone seriously injured or killed, it’s surprising that even more of these workers aren’t affected. When someone does develop a trauma disorder, though, the outcome is often detrimental.

Just consider some of the most common effects of those who deal with trauma working with criminal offenders. Each of these issues can become a daily reality for corrections officers, staff, mental health professionals and others who frequently encounter individuals in the criminal justice system:

  • High levels of stress lead to physical health problems
  • One-third of corrections staff have at least one symptom of PTSD
  • Suicide rates are very high, and 10% of corrections officers have thought of suicide
  • Half of officers do not feel safe at work
  • Feelings of hopelessness and depression are common

It’s also important to note that trauma isn’t the only potential issue encountered by those who work with criminal offenders. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jailers and correctional officers “have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses” among all occupations. Such injuries can lead to the need for medications — which can turn addictive.

Rates of depression, hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide are also higher among corrections staff. Working with criminal offenders is a stressful environment, and these professionals have to reintegrate into normal society every time they leave “the office.” This puts significant stressors on an individual, so it’s no surprise that so many deal with their own issues.

If you’re dealing with any of these issues — or others — contact Transformations at Mending Fences today. Our main focus is helping you heal.

Treatment After Working with Criminal Offenders

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for those who developed mental health issues while working with criminal offenders. There are countless factors that can affect a person’s diagnosis, co-occurring disorders, underlying triggers, and which therapies prove effective. This is why a customized treatment plan is so vital for healing.

The professionals at Mending Fences recognize that this means offering an array of therapies is necessary. Two people could have very similar experiences working with criminal offenders, but the therapeutic approaches that work for each can differ significantly. That’s why we offer each of the following treatment options at Mending Fences:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Anxiety management
  • Equine-assisted psychotherapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Adventure therapy
  • Trauma groups
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Medical detoxification
  • Emotion-focused therapy

While this list may seem extensive, it only scratches the surface of our offerings. It’s rare for a single approach to help someone fully heal, and even if one therapy could accomplish this, complementary approaches often improve results. The trauma experienced when working with criminal offenders can be serious, so having all the proper tools is essential.

Regardless of where you get help, the most important thing is that you get help. Don’t continue living with trauma, depression, addiction, or other disorders merely because you chose a certain career path.

Overcome Trauma from Working with Criminal Offenders

There are many types of trauma a person can experience when working with criminal offenders. In some situations, an individual doesn’t even need to experience direct trauma to suffer symptoms. The important thing to remember is that this is not a sign of weakness. Humans were not built for trauma, so if you need help, there’s no shame in seeking it.

Mending Fences at Transformations offers a variety of programs and treatments for these issues. The Help for Our Heroes program is perfect for police officers, first responders, and corrections staff. Other professionals who work with those in the criminal justice system will also find a wealth of resources — both therapeutic and medical — geared toward helping them cope.

Don’t suffer due to a misplaced sense of professional resiliency. Contact us today at Mending Fences and get on the path to healing.