Psychosocial interventions to prevent psychological problems in police officers

People working in law enforcement are subject to many things that can act as work stressors. These include aspects of their job that are linked to operational factors (job content) and aspects that are linked to organizational factors (job context). A wide variety of interventions are used to try to prevent psychological disorders in law enforcement officers. In view of the importance of the functions performed by law enforcement officers, and the fact that there is no definitive approach to deal with psychological problems they may develop, a systematic review of the evidence is needed to determine the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions in preventing these problems in this select population. We found ten randomised trials, but not of all these contributed useful data for this review and quantitative meta-analyses were not possible. No data on adverse effects were available. The available evidence is, therefore, limited to the analysis of single, small and low quality trials. This suggests that police officers may benefit from psychosocial interventions in terms of psychological symptoms and physical symptoms. Further well-designed trials of psychosocial interventions to enhance the psychological health of police officers are required. Trials of organisation-based interventions are also needed.

Authors’ conclusions:

There is evidence only from individual small and low quality trials with minimal data suggesting that police officers benefit from psychosocial interventions, in terms of physical symptoms and psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sleep problems, cynicism, anger, PTSD, marital problems and distress. No data on adverse effects were available. Meta-analyses of the available data were not possible. Further well-designed trials of psychosocial interventions are required. Research is needed on organization-based interventions to enhance psychological health among police officers.