Police and mental health forums have been sharing the devastatingly high amount of police officer suicide occurring in the last couple of years. As it’s been reported, more police officers are taking their own lives on a yearly basis than are being feloniously murdered.
That is incredibly sad, absolutely unnecessary, and completely unacceptable.
So how do we fix it?
— Blue H.E.L.P. (@BlueHelpLE) January 2, 2020
There are already many groups and organizations that are committed to doing their part to bring awareness to the police suicide epidemic and reaching officers to get them help before it’s too late.
I am personally involved with several of them, and I know there are many out there that I don’t even know about. Some of them have essentially the same goals and missions, but really this is the kind of thing that there can’t be enough help with.
We are all on the same team. We all want the same thing. We are lucky to have so many people care enough to work hard in whatever organization they’re apart of to take care of our officers (and all first responders in some cases).
My goal in writing this article is to bring more awareness to people who may need to reach out to one of the organizations for themselves or for someone they know, or to people who want to get involved and help but just don’t know how.
There are so many ways that current officers, retired officers, spouses, family members, or pro-police community members can help in this dangerous and scary time for our officers, so pay attention!
First up is The Wounded Blue. The motto for this organization is “Never Forgotten Never Alone.” I became involved with them when I met the founder, Randy Sutton, and the peer support coordinator, Eddie Richardson, at a conference. Hearing these men talk about their work and what they’d been through in their lives to get them to the point they were at made me realize that these were my people, and I needed to be a part of it.
After suffering injuries in the line of duty that left him disabled & forced to retire,@damnyankee1977 lost his health insurance because he wasn’t with the department for 10 years. See his story in #TheWoundedBlue. NOW PLAYING on Multiple Platforms. Visit: https://t.co/NWYdC0a6vY pic.twitter.com/q5A3or61Dh
— “The Wounded Blue” Documentary (@WoundedBlueDoc) February 1, 2020
TWB is an organization that supports and advocates for police officers who have been injured or disabled in the line of duty, which includes support for mental trauma. I attended in-person training in Oklahoma with several other broken former cops and became a peer support advocate along with them. Let me tell you, the amount of love, experience, and desire to help others in that training was mind blowing. From my fellow trainees, to Randy and Eddie, to the trainers of the Warrior Rest Foundation.
If you are an officer or know one who is in need of some support, go on their website and reach out. It’s worth it. You can also check out their documentary of the same name.
Another great organization is Serve & Protect. S&P is for all first responders and also provides peer support, which is how I’m involved with them as well. Robert Michaels is the founder of this organization and I swear he is the busiest person I know. He’s constantly working to find new ways to reach people in order to bring them the help they may need.
S&P also goes a step further than peer support by locating therapy services in the caller’s area if needed. We all know first responders need a different type of therapy rather than hearing “How does that make you feel?” over and over. S&P has a therapist on staff, so when peer support advocates get information from the caller like their zip code and insurance company, along with any reasonable requests such as religious or gender preference, she can contact therapists in the person’s area and vet them to make sure they have experience with first responders.
Police, firefighters, medical responders, and dispatchers please reach out to S&P if you need it.
I first learned about both The Wounded Blue and Serve and Protect at different Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) conferences. The FOP is dedicated to finding ways to bring awareness of the police suicide epidemic and the mental health crisis the profession is facing, including having mental health organizations available to its members. Nationally, they have created an Officer Wellness Committee, overseen by Director Sherri Rowan Martin, which is creating a national database of “competent mental health providers for law enforcement professionals.”
The NFOP is committed to the wellness of every law enforcement officer. Be sure to join us in Nashville on January 30-31 for the first NFOP Wellness Summit. Check the link below for more information
. https://t.co/t2VjrMbSp8 pic.twitter.com/U5yALLXWEa
— National FOP (@GLFOP) January 7, 2020
The FOP is also working with the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services to standardize peer support training in order to assure that training unique to the police world is included. They are working hard to fight the stigma associated with officers reaching out for mental health help and offer many, many trainings for officers to get involved in peer support and to stay healthy themselves.
Each state has a state-level FOP lodge as well as several local lodges within. In my state, the Washington FOP has been hard at work the last couple of years to bring our officers the best training and mental health assistance possible. They have been bringing Critical Incident Stress Management training to different regions across the state free of charge to attendees. This is to ensure that more line-level officers are trained on how to deal with trauma in order to take care of each other during and after those hard calls we all face at some time or another. There is no one better equipped to gauge if an officer may need intervention than the brothers and sisters the officer serves with, and WAFOP recognizes that and hopes to expand the training available exponentially.
Additionally, the WAFOP has brought a new bill to legislatures this session, petitioning for a WAFOP license plate for our state. Funds raised from the plate will go towards mental health and wellness training for our officers.
Peer support works. It provides early intervention and tools on a broad level across agencies.
Listen here to learn more about it's success and importance.https://t.co/vcxH8wpWex#waleg #peersupport#LawEnforcement #CISM pic.twitter.com/QlHn9mmNNU
— Washington State FOP (@WASTATEFOP) January 12, 2020
This is the kind of forward thinking I love so much about the FOP. They are always finding ways to help our officers in whatever capacity that means. From brotherhood, to financing, to training, to benefits. It’s an organization run by police and former police, and they are prepared to fight for their members.
On a very specific level, and one that I many others would stop growing, is Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.). C.O.P.S. takes care of surviving spouses, family members, and fellow officers affected by a line of duty death. They also offer training to departments on how to respond to LODDs, which is so important. There are so many things that you wouldn’t even think of when dealing with that kind of incident and they train on what to do and how to do it.
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Their website states that the training offers information for officers on how to “successfully navigate the cumulative stress caused by experiencing critical incidents throughout a law enforcement career,” as well as “the warning signs and symptoms of Police Suicide.”
Blue H.E.L.P. (which stands for Honor, Educate, Lead, Prevent) is dedicated to suicide awareness, as well as honoring police who have died by suicide and advocating for recognition of their service and sacrifice. Karen Solomon is co-founder of the organization and is incredibly active in assuring that national data on police suicide and PTSD is collected, vetted for accuracy, and shared in order to provide the best assistance possible.
— Blue H.E.L.P. (@BlueHelpLE) January 17, 2020
Karen also created the website www.1stHelp.net. Users who visit the site can answer a short series of questions to determine what they’re looking for and where they’re at geographically, and they’ll be routed to a list of therapists (emotional, financial, and spiritual) in their area who provide services to police and/or other groups of first responders. On the site, Karen stresses the importance of an alliance between all first responder groups. She said on the site that she started it because, “We needed to bring everyone together, because collectively we have a larger voice.”
We are all better together. One team. One voice. I don’t care whose voice it is, as long as our police (and military, firefighters, etc.) are getting taken care of.
The groups I’ve mentioned in this article are in no way the only ones that exist to support the law enforcement community. There are SO many more out there that can help you, or can give you a way to help others. No one has asked me to write about any of their organizations. No one here is looking for recognition or praise.
They just care. Probably more than you’ll ever know. And they just want our law enforcement community to be physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually safe and healthy.
Because no fallen officer is ever forgotten. No living officer is ever alone.
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