‘Soul Weariness’



By: Allen Johnson??

Almost three years after Katrina, New Orleans may have a lot of traumatized cops trying to control a lot of traumatized juveniles, according to Tulane University historian Lance Hill, who has been surveying mental health literature on the long-term effects of the storm. Most NOPD officers were affected by “direct trauma,” losing their homes and witnessing widespread death and destruction.

The deleterious effects of “vicarious trauma stress” or “secondary stress” on police should not be ignored by their employers or the public, Hill says. “Those officers who were not here — if they are doing good community policing — are constantly exposed to the heartbreak and anguish that people experienced during the storm,” Hill says. Consequently, overly “empathetic listeners” can become emotionally isolated, engaging in avoidance behaviors such as self-medication, alcohol abuse and excessive television viewing. The long-term psychological consequence, known as “soul weariness,” is a cynical view of the world and the possibilities of progress. “That is potentially very dangerous for law enforcement because it can make officers more likely to engage in disrespectful or even violent behavior,” Hill says. Treatment is available, he says. Police officials have acknowledged increased disciplinary problems within the ranks since the storm, including alcohol abuse.

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