By Hugh Finlay
Chicago has seen a significant rise in its crime rate with well over 4,000 shootings per year, with about 750 murders a year. Working in this atmosphere Chicago police officers have become stressed out. As the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Chicago said "Chicago is a war zone. They (officers) are seeing the worst day of everybody's life every day." As one police officer, who is working in one of the most violent parts of Chicago, said, "You can never imagine what the human race is capable of doing."
This has lead to a higher than average suicide rate among the Chicago police, 60% per higher than the national average. About 25 Chicago police officers out of every 100,000 officers commit suicide per year. Christy Lopez, who was a former Justice Department official examining the situation, said "Suicide is killing officers, alcohol is killing officers, at a far greater rate than ambushes, but there is not the same sense of urgency around this issue."
Some have blamed the police suicide problem on poor facilities to support police officers who are under mental or emotional pressure. Police officers are reluctant to use their Employee Assistance Program. As one officer said " If someone thinks I talked to the EAP they think I'm unstable, so I'm not going to call." Eddie Johnson, the Chicago Police Superintendent admitted " Law enforcement historically has been seen as a very macho profession. To say you needed help was seen as a sign of weakness and we were wrong for looking at it that way, we were simply wrong." But the Chicago Police Department does not have much money or staff to look after their officers properly. A handful of staff do their best to deal with the problems of thousands of police officers.
The US army has a very similar problem. Like the police, more army personnel die through suicide than die in action. Half a million veterans suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome), as a result of the things they had to experience in the line of duty. And as with the police, also with the army, there is a lack of resources for dealing with the problem, and a stigma attached to soldiers asking for help with PTSD.
However there is now a solution to the problem, the Operation Warrior Wellness program, which teaches Transcendental Meditation to soldiers, and to some police officers. It has had tremendous success, bringing a 50% reduction of PTSD symptoms, together with a dramatic reduction in high blood pressure, a 47% reduction in the risk of heart disease, and a 42% reduction in insomnia. More than 340 peer reviewed studies testify to the effectiveness of the TM technique. As one veteran put it "After starting TM, my heart and mind were calmed. I had my first full night of sleep in 21 years. I have new goals in my life, and I haven't stopped smiling ever since my first meditation."
Furthermore, there are studies which show that 1% of the population in a city reduces the crime rate in the city. Another study showed that a group of 4,000 TM practitioners reduced the crime rate in Washington DC by 20%, in the summer of 1993.