Officers and colleagues remember Sheriff Richard Bodnick: Video
Public officials are shocked and saddened by the news that Passaic County Sheriff Richard Bodnik shot himself in a Clifton restaurant.
Research shows that police officers and firefighters are more likely to die in the line of duty, which is a disturbing but true statistic. Even with the resources now available, the stigma of asking for help still exists.
Gov. Phil Murphy and other state and local officials highlight psychological benefits available to New Jersey law enforcement officers and first responders following the death of Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik Health resources, such as the Cop2Cop program.
The Cop2Cop program was founded in 1998 after a series of police suicides. It created a statewide hotline for law enforcement officers and their families, staffed by licensed clinicians and retired police officers from all fields and law enforcement levels.
The program has become a must-have for law enforcement officers and helped prevent more than 300 suicides in its first 20 years, according to its website.
Officers can call the Cop2Cop 24/7 hotline and speak confidentially with other officers, who can provide them with additional resources and treatment if necessary.
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Law enforcement officers who are members of the New Jersey PBA can also contact the PBA’s Peer Response Team, which consists of 18 law enforcement officers and eight mental health clinicians who specialize in the mental health of first responders. PBA members also have 24/7 access to the services of the Peer Response Team.
“Sometimes it might just be that you need a like-minded, like-minded person to talk to. Maybe you’re seeking therapy to work through some issues or to vent,” said Luke Sciallo, the group’s coordinator. “As a law enforcement officer, we are supposed to be the ones solving the problem and then the police have to find their own way to deal with or deal with the problem.”
There is also an international hotline called Copline, which is also staffed by retired officials and is available 24/7.
“A legacy of sacrifice and service”: Officials mourn Passaic Police Chief Richard Bodnik
These hotlines are not strictly suicide hotlines. Law enforcement officers can call to discuss any issue, from personal issues to mental health, substance abuse or critical incidents at or outside of work.
In addition, many police departments have employee assistance programs through their towns, unions, or police department associations that employees can go to for help.
These resources are not limited to law enforcement, but also include first responders, firefighters and the military.
For example, St. Clair Hospital in Danville recently appointed North Jersey’s first EMS mental health recovery officer, Corinne Flammer, whose job will be to work closely with first responders to implement plans and provide emergency services during difficult times. Provide them with support.
“We saw some very difficult things and found that every day definitely starts to impact your own mental health,” Flammer said.
St. Clare’s Hospital also provides comprehensive mental health services, including psychiatric emergency services to the public as well as police.
“When you’re not feeling well, that’s okay. We can help if you need it. If you can’t pick yourself up, there’s a lot of us here for you,” Charlotte said. “We want to break that stigma. It’s okay to ask for help.”
Passaic County Sheriff Deputy Sheriff Gary Giardina sworn in as acting Passaic County Sheriff
- Police to Police: 1-866-267-2267
- Phone: 1-800-267-5463
- National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988
- International Association of Fire Fighters PTSD and Mental Health Hotline: 855-977-5136
- Veterans Crisis Hotline: Dial 988 and press one
The stigma of asking for help, especially among first responders and law enforcement, has been around for a long time.
A 2018 study published by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that firefighters and police officers are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.
Another study released in 2020 found that “U.S. law enforcement officers are 69% more likely to die by suicide compared with approximately 1.4 million total employed fatalities” in the National Occupational Mortality Surveillance System database.
“If you go back and do some research, you’ll find that a lot of officers die by suicide, and you’ll find that in a typical situation, more people die by suicide than die in the line of duty.” John Jay College of Criminal Justice said Brian Higgins, a professor and former Bergen County police chief. “Really, if it was the job and the officer’s actions that caused this mental health crisis that led to their suicide, then that’s a job-related loss as well.”
related: After Sheriff Richard Bodnick’s death, friends and colleagues search for answers
Higgins said it all comes down to the agency creating an environment where officers feel safe and comfortable taking advantage of the resources available to them.
First and foremost, the stigma of asking for help needs to be removed.
Higgins believes another thing that could be done is establishing basic standards and conducting mandatory and routine wellness checks for officers, similar to the protocols officers undergo after being involved in a shooting.
“These are extreme,” Higgins said. “But there are a lot of things that police officers see and do every day that affect them psychologically, and those things don’t rise to the level of an officer involved in a shooting.”
After a difficult call, Flammer established a line of communication with first responders and let them know support was available if needed. She would then follow up with more details and discuss it with them a few days later.
First responders work in high-stress environments and are the first line of help on people’s worst days. They may be used to seeing things that are difficult for others to see, but the effects can add up over time and affect their health and well-being.
“You’re going to see bad things and you’re going to see good things, but you’re supposed to put a Band-Aid on the bad things…you have to learn how to deal with it yourself,” Charlotte said.
Charlotte believes that this stigma still exists and may always exist, but it doesn’t have to be the case.
“It doesn’t matter how you feel, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. It’s just a matter of how you deal with your feelings before they become toxic or destructive,” says Charlotte. “There are a range of options and resources available to meet any of your needs.”
Tips to help with mental health
Flammer said there are steps first responders can take to support their mental health.
“This may sound funny, but the advice your parents gave you as a child can help even in extreme situations,” she said.
- enough sleep
- take a walk outside
- Get good nutrition
- Build a support network and talk to trusted peers
- Participate in sports activities
- Say those hurtful things, it’s okay
“These stressful things, they stay with us. They get stuck in our minds, they rummage around and do other things like physical activity, good nutrition, good sleep, and they take those difficult events out of your bouncing around in your brain, they help your brain cope with stress,” Flammer said.
She also recommends seeking professional help if stress from the event lasts for more than 30 days, as it could be post-traumatic stress.