IMPD helps mental health

Lieutenant David Hoffman discusses IMPD's stand on officers' mental health.

By Jana Warren

5 Rights | staff writer

A police officer’s job is to protect their fellow citizens, sometimes jeopardizing their own life. But the public isn’t likely to know that the officers are subjected to stresses that can lead not only to physical harm but undiagnosed mental health issues.

“Police officers are not immune from the same stress which can negatively affect the other members of our community,” said Lt. David Hofmann of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. At least 15 percent of all Americans, which includes police officers, suffer from some kind of undiagnosed mental illness according to Hofmann.  Whether they’re one-year rookies or 25-year veterans, the daily activities of an officer can take a toll, he said.

“As a police officer, in a matter of moments you can witness a homicide involving a mother or a son, or a house caught on fire and a fireman dragging a body out,” said Capt. Jack Keilger of theMarion County Sheriff Department. “We deal with a lot of shattered lives but if we don’t keep it (stress) in control we’re going to have a shattered life.”

Understanding what that amount of stress can lead to, departments such as the Marion County Sheriff and  IMPD provide programs and services as well as career advice and guidance to officers. The services also include coordinating professional help from therapists to psychiatrists.

“We have an excellent Employee Assistance Program,” said Hofmann, who works in IMPD’sinternal affairs unit. “We also offer department mentors for officers, and in some cases, special temporary assignments to give officers a change of scenery or additional training in areas of interest to them.” Overall IMPD has helped more than 40 officers deal with personal and professional issues. Officers are able to work on their normal assignments while getting help, as well as being given temporary assignments.

Sometimes, the best way for police officers to get through stressful situations is to talk to someone.

“Most people look at officers as superheroes when they should realize that we’re humans too,” said Marion County Sheriffs Deputy Samuel Longwood.  “When you have supervisors who work closely with you, you tend to become a family and you’re able to share and tell them what you’re going through.”

For some officers however, it isn’t so simple.

“There’s a macho sense about the job,” said Keilger. “There’s a lot of A-type in them, that they don’t want to get help.”

At that point, the situation can get worse for some officers.  Others are able to cope with the stress while contemplating whether to seek help. Longwood was one of those officers.

“Sometimes I felt that I needed to go to someone but didn’t and eventually figured it out myself,” said Longwood. When police officers encounter a lot of stress, they are encouraged to participate in activities the enjoy, Longwood said. In doing so,  officers not only relieve the stress but also find a way to deal with it in the future.

“The overall theme of what we do in our office is to try to take good care of our most valuable asset, our people,” said Hofmann. “That, in turn, will make IMPD stronger, more professional agency, which in turn will make Indianapolis a safer community.”


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