In this guide we will discuss whether a person with depression can become a police officer.
We will also discuss what are some policies surrounding a career in law enforcement and mental health and what are some alternative careers you can try out.
Can you be a police officer with depression?
The answer to whether you can become a police officer with depression depends on various factors like:
- Your mental health status
- Academy Policies and laws surrounding health conditions
- And your resilience once you get into the program
The role of a police officer will expose them to stressful situations where their life might also be on the line, this work-related stress may not be a feasible environment for a person with a mental disorder.
The probability that you will be accepted into a police academy depends on how you do in the exams and medical assessments. If you struggle with an active and severe mental health disorder such as depression, it might affect your ability to perform on these exams and assessments.
If you do get through the exam, your medical history can prove to be a roadblock in getting into the training program. The possibility of you becoming a police officer depends on a few things.
Your mental health status
Your diagnosis will play a huge role on whether you will be allowed into training programs or not. If you have been diagnosed with depression and are under treatment, it is important that you keep your treatment records organised and that you engage in your treatment actively.
Depression itself can be debilitating, it can affect your quality of life, your ability to meet the demand of your daily life, relationships, and your job. A career in law enforcement is often stressful and may require a high amount of logical and decision making skills.
Depression usually impacts a person’s brain structures that are involved in executive function along with decision making, judgment, emotions, and motivation- all of which are crucial for a safe and successful career as a police officer.
Depression, when severe, can also lead to psychosis and stressors might only aggravate symptoms of depression. Infact. Depression along with stress can also lead to various disorders that have high comorbidity with depression such as PTSD and anxiety.
These will make it difficult for you to get into the career and even get through training. Thus, your chance of getting into programs depends on how well you respond to treatment and the severity of the illness at the time of applying, meaning that it will require the note of your psychiatrist or psychologist that is treating you.
Policies and laws surrounding mental health
Our career as a police officer with a history of depression also depends on the question of whether a specific academy or program will allow you to join training or not.
This highly depends on their policies. They might have certain criterias for mental health related issues. Some academies might have policies that allow people with a history of depression or mental illness provided that the disorder has been in remission for at least two years.
These policies differ from country to country and from academy to academy. For example, New Zealand had a policy that people who have been on antidepressants had to wait at least two years off the medication before they could be allowed to join but now this policy has been lifted.
The Essex police academy in the UK allows applications provided that the symptoms of depression are well managed- they consider assessments of people with depression on a case by case basis.
Assessments for Sydney training programs require a counsellor, psychologist, or psychiatrist notes of your medical history for acceptance. They also have a minimum requirement for you to be completely in remission to be accepted.
Even if you are not diagnosed with a disorder but show symptoms or do not pass the psychology evaluation that most programs have, you may be barred from joining the program.
Another important factor that will play a huge role is your ability to cope with stressors and overcome them. This is in context with you getting through the multiple assessments and into the training program.
The training program itself is extremely rigorous and is a high stress environment. Ronnie Wendt writes about a US police academy as a place that,
“…puts candidates to the test to weed out those who lack the mental and physical fortitude for the job.”
He writes that the high stress environment and training is to prepare prospective police officers for the reality of the job.
Now, a person with a history of mental illness is extremely susceptible to high stress environments. In fact, high stress is the number one cause of relapse or recurrence of a mental disorder.
Depression is one of the most common disorders that is susceptible to relapse and the more occurrences, the more likely a person is to relapse.
While you may be able to get through initial testing, the training program might be a challenge to get through if you are not mentally or psychologically resilient. Thus, many people, even without a diagnosed mental disorder do not make the cut.
Alternative careers in Law and Order
The reasons above are important factors to make your decision as to whether you want to pursue a career as a police officer. The question to consider is not “Can I?” but rather “Should I?”
If you are adamant and hopeful that with professional support and have a serious dedication to manage the way you think, feel, and behave in adaptive and healthy ways, there is no harm to try provided the academy accepts you.
However, if you are unsure about your own resilience, there are plenty of careers in law enforcement that are less stressful than being in the front lines of active duty.
Some of these careers include:
Correctional officers maintain safety and order within jails and prisons. They are responsible for people who have been arrested and serving time.
These professionals do what most detectives do such as interviewing witnesses, following up with leads, performing surveillance and going undercover for private parties.
They are not part of the state’s official law enforcement but may work alongside them to investigate crimes if hired by a possible victim.
These officers are hired to protect public or private property. They keep watch, respond to emergencies at their facility, deter criminal activity, monitor surveillance and write reports.
Their jobs are not as stressful as that of a police officer.
Park Rangers are responsible for state, national parks, or forests. They protect natural resources from illegal activities, poachers, and even conduct search and rescue programs when needed.
Working closely with police officers and first responders forensic analysts are tasked with collecting and/or examining crime scene evidence.
They play an important part in learning more about the crime, the person who committed the offense, and to include or eliminate a specific person as a potential suspect.
In this guide we have discussed the possibility of whether you can become a police officer if you have mental illness such as depression. We have also discussed the possibility of alternate careers in law enforcement.
Frequently asked questions related to “can you be a police officer with depression?”
Can you become a police officer with mental health issues?
Generally, psychotic illnesses do not resolve, although they may be well-controlled with medication. Due to the nature of the condition and policing duties, applicants are not suitable for Policing.
Can police officers have anxiety?
Police officers show not only high levels of PTSD, but also depression, anxiety and suicide.29
Can you be a cop if you take antidepressants?
Until now, people wanting to join the police have faced a mandatory two-year wait if they are on, or have been on, antidepressant medication. In practice, those taking the medication usually haven’t been allowed to become police officers. That restriction is now being lifted and replaced by a case-by-case assessment
Can you join the police force if you are colorblind?
Can you become a police officer if you are colour blind? Those with colour blindness are eligible to become police officers, but would be restricted from fulfilling certain posts, such as traffic officer or firearms officer. If your colour blindness is monochrome, you would be unable to apply.
What causes police stress?
According to the article, “Police Stress: Identifying & Managing Symptoms of Stress,” these stresses are caused by: Constant exposure to people suffering distress and pain. Threats to an officer’s safety or health. The responsibility of protecting the lives of citizens.