New NBC reporting series highlights efforts to address officer mental health
Coverage underlines departmental efforts, officers who assist others in crisis
NBC News recently completed a series focusing on mental health services available to law enforcement officers. Although the number of police officers who die by suicide outpaces deaths in the line of duty, many departments do not offer mental health services extensive enough to assist officers in crisis. Even if those services are available, NBC heard from many officers who said they feared discrimination or judgment if they sought help.
Frank Abbot, a New York State Trooper who suffered from severe PTSD and anxiety after shooting a suspect who attempted to run him over with a car, told NBC he struggled to find and receive mental health services after being discharged from the hospital. When he did seek therapy, he received criticism and judgment from his superiors and fellow officers.
"They asked about my physical injuries," he told NBC. "They didn't refer me to any mental health resources. It was, 'Hey, how you doing.' Like a box to check. Not, 'Is everything okay? Are you sleeping at night?'"
"I didn't need to be committed," he added. "I needed hope. I needed resources. I needed someone who could start a path toward something."
This extensive coverage ties into existing efforts made by police departments nationwide to raise awareness of mental health treatment and officer suicide. NBC highlighted initiatives started by former officers like Jim Banish, a former sheriff’s deputy who began questioning the culture that led so many LEOs to hide their struggles with PTSD after he witnessed multiple suicides and lost his own brother the same way.
"I thought this is ridiculous that police officers, we have to hide, we have to do this in silence," he told NBC. "There's nobody to help us. We're exposed to so much trauma and so much death and devastation, and the old school thinking is, 'That's your job and that's what you get paid to do."
NBC also highlighted the Fairfax County Police Department, which received praise nationally for actively working to fight for its officers’ mental health. Officials identified key means of effectively helping officers struggling with mental illness and prioritized keeping them at work while also receiving treatment.
"We want them to be part of something," FCPD Director of Incident Support Services Jaysyn Carson told NBC. "We don't want to be the ones that create the isolation and send them home and let them sit at home and fester and wonder."