Ryan had been a Fort Lauderdale fire fighter for more than 10 years when he felt his life closing in on him. The rigors of his job and the responsibility of a wife and three small children at home pushed him into what he calls his “dark season.”
“It came out of the blue. I didn’t feel right,” he recalled. “I was deeply depressed.”
Luckily, with the help of his religious faith, family members, friends, counselors and his primary care physician, Ryan eventually pulled out of this funk. “People who have been through similar experiences and my overall circle of support helped me,” he said.
The experience inspired him to become a peer support coordinator at his station, and he began attending seminars and classes, including a training program sponsored by Broward Sheriff ’s Advisory Council and led by Dr. Robert Douglas, Jr., President of the National Police Suicide Foundation. (www.psf.org)
Characterizing the experience as “one of the best training classes I’ve ever attended,” Ryan said Dr. Douglas, who served for 25 years in law enforcement, was a credible resource. He offered practical advice, included role playing in the training and inserted therapeutic laughter throughout the program. Dr. Douglas also is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, a pastor and author. While an officer, he lost his partner to suicide and was inspired to help stem this growing crisis.
According to Judy Couwels, MA, LMFT, who heads the Broward Sheriff ’s Office Employee Assistance Program, First Responders are often resistant to seeking help yet are faced with situations at work, and sometimes at home as well, that lead to depression, PTSD and alcoholism.
“It can be the perfect storm when life experiences, alcohol abuse, easy access to a firearm and impulse collide,” she said. “Police resilience is about making sure we help them develop the strength to withstand the hidden emotional and spiritual dangers of a career in law enforcement.”
“If we don’t take care of OUR PEOPLE — they won’t be able to take care of THE PEOPLE.”
POLICE RESILIENCE IS ABOUT MAKING SURE WE HELP THEM DEVELOP THE STRENGTH TO WITHSTAND THE HIDDEN EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL DANGERS OF A CAREER IN LAW ENFORCEMENT.
In the first six months of 2019 alone, more than 100 officers nationwide took their own lives. An increase year over year of 24%
— Blue H.E.L.P. (BLUEHELP.ORG)
SUICIDE CAN BE PREVENTED, but it requires dedicated personnel to develop and implement the proper prevention methods … Departments must break the silence on law enforcement suicides by building up effective and continuing suicide prevention programs.
— U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)