We have all worked in a toxic work environment due to the workplace culture, co-workers, supervisors, or the work itself.   


We have all worked in a toxic work environment due to the workplace culture, co-workers, supervisors, or the work itself.

Stephanie Kiesow is a former law enforcement officer, cop kid, and cop’s wife.  She saw how work impacted her parents, their mood, and in turn the family.  She started her career in law enforcement at 18 and in 2011, when her fiancé had a pending IA, lost him to death by suicide.  This kicked off what Stephanie calls her obsessive curiosity about suicide and how the workplace contributes to the permanent decision.

Stephanie is currently working on her PhD in Organizational psychology.  Through her research and education, she found contributing workplace factors that impact mental health and cause death in a perceptual sense or literal sense and coined the term workicide.

Stephanie’s goal is to help people mitigate a work-related decline in their mental health and increase their overall well-being so they can enjoy work and love life. She has written the book Workicide to help others do just that.

This is a deep topic but you will want to hear her research and her solutions for our law enforcement culture.

In the law enforcement community, the concept of “workicide” silently affects the mental health and well-being of officers across. While not as widely discussed as physical dangers or occupational hazards, workicide represents a significant threat, manifesting as a decline in mental health that can have far-reaching consequences.

“Workicide,” a term coined by Stephanie Kiesow, is not about literal death, but rather the slow slide of one’s well-being due to the pressures and challenges of the profession. It encompasses various internal and external factors that contribute to a decline in mental health, ultimately affecting the quality of life and job performance of law enforcement officers.

When looking at internal and external factors of workicide, there are specific overlapping themes that contribute to a decline in mental health.



Law enforcement officers often find themselves isolated, both physically and emotionally. Long hours, stressful situations, and the nature of the job can lead to a sense of disconnection from family, friends, and the broader community. This isolation can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and despair, contributing to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Moral injuries can often mimic isolation. When officers are subjected to ethical dilemmas or witness wrongdoing within their ranks, it can lead to a sense of moral distress. This internal conflict can further isolate individuals and wear down their sense of self-worth.

It is important to remember that isolation doesn’t have to be someone who is physically isolated. It can be the perception that is just as powerful.

Low self-worth 

Officers may struggle with inadequacy and self-doubt in a demanding profession where performance is scrutinized. Toxic work environments, lack of support or guidance from superiors, and non-work related factors like past abuses, childhood neglect, financial issues, and marital strife can also contribute to a diminished sense of self-worth.

Occupational trauma

The nature of police work exposes officers to traumatic events on a regular basis, leading to cumulative stress and emotional toll. Over time and unaddressed, these traumas can weigh heavily on individuals, affecting their mental and emotional well-being.

Identity devastation

Identity devastation often goes unrecognized until it’s too late. Many law enforcement officers derive a significant portion of their identity from their careers, blurring the lines between professional and personal life. Over-identifying as an officer can be reinforced through statements such as introductions starting with professional accomplishments, status, or titles. This over-identification can lead to a loss of perspective and a narrow, one-dimensional view of self, making it difficult to cope with the challenges of the job.


To address workicide and promote mental health and resilience among law enforcement officers, a multi-faceted approach is needed.

Connected Wellness Efficacy (CWE) offers a framework for prioritizing wellness and building resilience. As outlined by Peggy Swarbrick, wellness isn’t one thing or one destination but rather eight different dimensions. Officers can cultivate a more balanced and fulfilling life by focusing on the eight dimensions of wellness: environmental, physical, occupational, financial, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual.

Each of these wellness dimensions is interconnected, and addressing each one helps create a balanced and multifaceted life and identity.

Organizational support is also crucial in combating workicide. By providing instrumental support, such as counseling services and wellness programs, agencies can help officers navigate the challenges of the job more effectively. Additionally, fostering a culture of openness and support within the organization can go a long way in promoting mental health and well-being.

Therapy plays a vital role in mental health maintenance for law enforcement officers. It’s essential to destigmatize seeking help and view therapy as a proactive measure rather than a last resort. By prioritizing mental health and seeking support when needed, officers can better cope with the demands of the job and mitigate the risks of workicide.

Understanding workicide is essential for creating a supportive and resilient law enforcement community. By addressing the internal and external factors contributing to mental health decline, agencies can foster a culture of wellness and support, ensuring that officers survive and thrive in their professional and personal lives. Through education, advocacy, and proactive measures, the risk of workicide decreases while building a healthier, more resilient officer, on and off the job.

“The ultimate goal isn’t to get a first responder to survive day to day but rather to a point where they can thrive professionally and personally.”  Stephanie Kiesow

From 2006 through 2022, Stephanie worked for three police agencies on the Central Coast of California, the last several years as a sworn police officer. In 2022, Stephanie left her job as a police officer and now focuses her time on researching and mitigating workplace contributing factors to suicide within first responder agencies and helping to increase organizational and occupational wellness through anecdotal and science-backed methods. In addition to her professional roles with First Responder Wellness/The Counseling Team International, Stephanie teaches for the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and Standard and Training for Corrections (STC) with her certified therapy dog, is a contributing writer and speaker for several organizations, and is the author of, Workicide: How to Overcome a Career-Related Decline in Mental Health and Reignite Your Passion for Work and Life. 

LinkedIn: Stephanie K.

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We have all worked in a toxic work environment due to the workplace culture, co-workers, supervisors, or the work itself.