Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Michelle Miller-Day

Second Advisor

Jennifer Bevan

Third Advisor

Hannah Ball

Fourth Advisor

Brooke Jenkins


Throughout the United States, police officers experience cumulative stress and their mental health-related concerns often remain unaddressed. Recently, police departments have begun to offer more mental health support resources in an attempt to mitigate this issue. However, the underutilization of such support is a serious problem. The overall goal of this dissertation is to develop a grounded theory of mental health communication in law enforcement. Employing a constructivist grounded theory approach, data were collected in two sequential phases. Phase one involved 48 in-depth semi-structured interviews with active and retired police officers to examine how the messages police officers receive from society, police departments, and interpersonal relationships shape their perceptions of mental health. Guided by the findings in phase one, a one-time anonymous online survey was completed by 58 additional active police officers to further explore their preferences for mental health-related communication in receiving support and information about available resources in phase two. The theory explains and illustrates how two potential routes, involving multiple layers of influence, can shape police officers' views of mental health and support seeking. Theoretically, this dissertation extends our current understanding of disclosure decisions and the role of communication in officers' willingness to seek mental health support. The grounded theory presented in this dissertation also yields several practical implications for policymakers, department leadership, and families of vi police officers. Moreover, the grounded theory provides a foundation for building a more comprehensive explanation of mental health communication in first responder professions.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.