Arlington County Police Department Pioneers New Officer Wellness Tools
Less than 20% of police officers seek help for mental health concerns according to a recent article from Walden University.
Law enforcement officers routinely face high-pressured situations that require sound decision making. When you’re stressed, that decreases working memory which increases the likelihood of errors. Whether you’re a police officer, a nurse, or a pilot, these “worker athletes” benefit from drugless solutions to boost their human performance.
According to the American Police Officers Alliance, alcohol abuse, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal thoughts are common mental concerns for officers around the US. In fact, 1 in 4 officers contemplate suicide.
Departments are finding new, engaging ways to improve mental fitness within their own teams. Emerging tactics include destigmatizing seeking help, centralizing resources internally and forming strategic partnerships with health organizations. The Arlington County Police Department has also introduced immersive media for mental resilience training and recovery. Recently, the ACPD launched a wellness initiative for officers through a partnership with Cummings Foundation Behavioral Health.
The new initiative introduces Virtual Reality Stress Management Training using Healium’s software. The officers are using VR headsets to interrupt the stress response, provide vi
rtual nature experiences, and create stored memories that can be recalled in stressful situations.
Five peer-reviewed journal publications show Healium’s impact on anxiety, positivity, and mood improvement. Officers will be able to experience calm in as little as four minutes through these virtual nature escapes that have the option of being powered by wearables that allow the user to see their own brain patterns or heart rate inside virtual worlds.
For more information on virtual reality as a drugless non- harmful coping mechanism for you or your team, visit tryhealium.com.
The benefits of neurofeedback are endless. Better sleep, increased concentration, impulse control, and more. But when we talk about “seeing your feelings”, what do we really mean and why is that important?
The first step in controlling your feelings is measuring them. Feelings have physiological effects on the body which are easily measured. For example, a calm feeling appears as slower brainwave activity in the frontal lobe and a lower heart rate.
Neuroscientists use an EEG cap to evaluate the electrical activity in the brain by placing electrodes on the scalp.
Luckily, consumer wearables, such as a BrainLink EEG headband, are more widely accessible in order to gather an overview of brain activity. While these consumer headbands cannot capture all areas of your brain like a full 19 sensor EEG cap, they can give you a helpful snapshot of your brain wave patterns, especially when paired with interactive or immersive media.
The headband has three sensors that are located on the strap that goes across your forehead, essentially monitoring your brain’s electrical activity. Through this neurofeedback connection, a representation of your brain patterns is displayed visually in near real-time within the Healium’s VR and AR apps.
To improve your focus, you want your slow brain waves (theta) to go down and your fast brain waves (beta) to go up. Ideally, the frontal lobe needs to be engaged.
To improve feelings of calm, you want the opposite; you’re trying to reduce fast, high beta activity in the frontal lobe.
The algorithm built into the app takes these ratios into account. Inside the Healium app, you’ll see a firefly go above the baseline when this criteria is met, meaning you’re successfully meeting the mark for focused calm when using the BrainLink, or a lowered heart rate when using the Apple Watch.
If you’ve ever attempted meditation or mindfulness before, you might have given in to the distractions around you or found it hard to focus.
With feedback displayed to you in real-time, you know whether or not you’re hitting the mark. Are you recalling a calm memory? Are you letting your mind wander? How are you responding to the experience and the story?
Feedback lets you know if the experience is working. This can lead to an advanced mindfulness practice with an enhanced awareness of your mind/body connection.
Below is an example of what you’ll see inside the virtual reality app when paired with a BrainLink EEG headband.
The ability to be guided back to the goal makes it attainable and encouraging when you’re doing well. Many Healium users report the same experience.
Ellen, a subscriber to Healium says, “Healium is my first real VR experience and it’s easy to use for what I call my own self-care. As someone who has managed with anxiety and depression my whole life, the experiences are calming, lovely, peaceful, and truly relaxing.”
As an added psychological boost, you’ll feel rewarded when you maintain your firefly above the baseline.
Interestingly, our perception isn’t always accurate. In a study conducted by the NeuroMeditation Institute, users reported how they felt before and after using the Healium AR app.
Everyone reported decreases in negative emotions and increases in positive emotions, regardless of whether they were using biofeedback or not. However, participants using biofeedback showed changes in their physiology whereas the other group didn’t.
That’s where biofeedback can help improve your awareness of your feelings and your ability to influence them. What you’re thinking you’re feeling vs what you’re actually feeling isn’t always connected. Over time, this connection can grow stronger which can boost your mental resilience.
Feelings can be controlled. They don’t happen to us. But with biofeedback you can control anything you can measure. Remember that your thoughts have power…in the virtual world and in the real world as well.
Note: The data from a consumer wearable is not diagnostic. It is valuable as a self-awareness tool to better understand how your brain patterns and heart rate react to your thoughts.