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Crime & Safety

More resources needed to address the mental health of officers, police say



MONROE, La. – Police officers say more resources are needed to address mental health and emotional wellbeing among the ranks of our law enforcement. Along with the usual work of responding to crime, 2020 presented several unusual challenges for police officers, like COVID-19, nationwide riots, and enhanced public scrutiny. Officers say the emotional impact of the job, even after a crisis, is rarely discussed and can lead to mental health issues.

West Monroe Police Sgt. C.J. Beck, who is a licensed professional counselor, says the toll of the job can be life-altering.

“A lot of times police officers will internalize all those feelings, which causes depression, sometimes alcoholism, and drug abuse. I mean, that’s not uncommon throughout a whole career. Ultimately, that’s not a healthy way of dealing with things but that’s some things that need to be addressed now, so they have an outlet to talk,” Beck said.

Beck says most officers don’t reach out for help. He says they fear being judged and they don’t trust therapists enough to be vulnerable. Beck says many times negative emotions picked up on the job can carry over to their personal lives.

“They have to be around their kids after they’ve been involved in a serious incident. We go to all death calls, natural death, suicides, domestic violence deaths. We go to serious crashes, every part of that is taken into the psyche and the heart of the police officer. There’s just not enough emphasis on the mental health of police officers and the things they deal with on a day in and day out basis,” Beck said.

University of Louisiana Monroe Police Assistant Chief Mark Johnson says officers need therapists they can trust.

“Again, it all comes down to funding to get mental health. Somebody’s got to pay for that, who pays for that? That comes out of funding that comes out of budgets. If you’re not provided that, it’s not going to exist,” he said.

Beck says something has to change.

“I would like to see it, at a Congressional level. The discussions about how to help police officers, instead of defunding the police movement to fund the police movement funds the mental health side because society needs police officers,” he said.

Officers are trained to identify signs that their co-workers may need counseling.