Mental health resources for police officers

Many officers go through their entire careers without ever firing their weapon and if they do, it is a traumatic experience.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Mental health professionals want to remind police officers and their colleagues that there are resources available to them.

It comes after three shootings involving officers occurred in southeast Texas in the space of just three months.

Many officers go through their entire careers without ever firing their weapon and if they do, it is a traumatic experience.

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Thomas Smith is a lifelong police officer who is now working with the Spindletop Center to provide more mental health resources for police officers.

He and Laurie Chapman have just launched a new initiative with the Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network.

“As a society, we view police officers as those who are immune, but police officers are also human and are not immune to these kinds of traumatic events,” Chapman said.

They also face stressful situations day in and day out.

“They’re always on high alert. You know, everywhere they go. So they’re constantly stressed out,” Smith said.

This stress can be compounded when they fire their gun at work.

“When an officer has to use his weapon on the job, it’s not just a tragedy for the officer, but you have the victim, the victim’s family, the officer’s family, the community. It involves the whole world,” Smith said.

The Peer Network is made up of volunteer officers across the state.

“A resource that officers can use 24/7 for those who have mental health issues or are having a tough day or after some sort of critical incident,” Smith said.

These volunteers completed a 16-hour training to become certified peers.

“We had a registration list of 16 law enforcement officers and jailers who signed up and were certified peer helpers,” Chapman said.

They say sessions like this help reduce the stigma of officers seeking help.

“When I started in the 1980s, the stigma was that if you couldn’t handle it, you were in the wrong job,” Smith said. “This new generation of law enforcement is moving forward. They’ve grown up in a world where they don’t get reprimanded for talking about their feelings or their stress.”

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Chapman says they plan to host another training on the Law Enforcement Peer Network in a few months and even if officers aren’t certified peers, they can download their app and talk to an experienced peer.

There have now been 21 shootings involving officers in southeast Texas over the past five years.

Here is a breakdown by city:

  • Beaumont – 8
  • Kountze – 1
  • Lumberton – 1
  • Netherlands – 1
  • Port Arthur – 3
  • Port Neches – 2
  • Silsbee – 2
  • Sour Lake – 3

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