New Jersey Sheriff seeks mental health resources after death

New Jersey Sheriff seeks mental health resources after death

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WOODLAND PARK, N.J. — Gov. Phil Murphy and other state and local officials stressed the availability of mental health resource officers and first responders to law enforcement after a New Jersey police sergeant died by suicide at a restaurant.

Research shows that police officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. Despite the resources available, the stigma of seeking help persists.

In a 2021 national study, a “shocking” 90% of police officers said stigma was a “barrier to seeking mental health help”, according to the National Mental Health Council’s Mental Health First Aid programme. Eric Weaver, a mental health first aid national trainer and retired sergeant, said the stigma is often caused by changing police views on mental health.

Weaver said while most police academies offer mental health training, the amount and frequency of that training is insufficient.

Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik, who has worked in law enforcement for more than 40 years and has deep ties to North Jersey, is serving as the chief executive, sources familiar with the matter told The Paterson Press and Northjersey.com. He shot himself in the head at a Clifton restaurant on Tuesday. USA Today Network. County Attorney Camilia Valdez said Wednesday that the investigation into Burdnick’s death is “actively ongoing.”

His death shocked and saddened law enforcement officials and politicians, many of whom said they saw no signs he was troubled in recent encounters and phone conversations. New Jersey officials have since called on law enforcement and first responders to focus on mental health resources, such as the Cop 2 Cop program.

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New Jersey Mental Health Resources

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.

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.”

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.

“When you don’t feel good, that’s okay. We can help if you need it. If you can’t cheer up, we have a lot of people around,” Charlotte said. “We want to break that stigma. It’s okay to ask for help.”

Fighting shame

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.

Brian Higgins, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former chief of the Bergen County Police Department, said agencies should create an environment where officers feel safe and comfortable taking advantage of the resources available to them.

Higgins added that agencies could also establish basic standards and institute mandatory and routine wellness screenings 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.”

Charlotte points out that stigma still exists and may always exist, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“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. “…It’s just a matter of how you deal with your emotions before they become toxic or destructive. There is a menu of options and resources for whatever you need.”

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Tips to help with mental health

Corinne Flammer, St. Clair Hospital EMS mental health resiliency officer, said there are steps people can take to support their mental health, including getting enough sleep, getting out for walks, getting good nutrition, building a support network and Talk to others. Danville Hospital.

“These stressful events, they stay with us. They get stuck in our minds and they rummage around and do other things like physical activity, good nutrition, good sleep, and they take those difficult events out of They’re jumping around in your brain, and 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.

Who is Sheriff Richard Bodnick?

Burdnick has served as Passaic County Sheriff since 2014 and previously served as a Clifton police officer. He recently endured one of his most difficult weeks as a public official.

On Jan. 17, federal authorities arrested three of his officers in connection with an assault case. The next day, Burdnick’s office announced that more than two dozen corrections officers would have to be laid off because of the closure of county jails.

There are other looming issues, including nine pending lawsuits filed by prison inmates who say they were mistreated in prisons run by Burdnick. Superior Court judges have scheduled a meeting for February 20 to discuss the possibility of joining the lawsuits.

But authorities say dealing with these issues is a normal part of a New Jersey county sheriff’s job. Friends and political allies of Burdnick say they believe none of these events prompted him to take his own life.

“It is shocking to learn of this tragic loss,” said Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey Police Benevolent Association. “Chief Burdnick was a true public servant who worked with the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department every day. work to keep Passaic County’s streets and communities safe.”

If you or someone you know needs mental health resources and support, please call, text, or chat with 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or visit 988lifeline.org 24/7 for free and confidential services.

Contributed by: Joe Malinconico, Patterson Press; USA TODAY NETWORK

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