SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The Unified Police Department is striving to improve the mental health of its police officers.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been struggling more with their mental health according to Lt. April Morse.
Policing is one of the most mentally taxing occupations; think about the daily stressors law enforcement officers must deal with and then add the COVID-19 pandemic to the mix.
Lt. Morse with Unified Police Department said mental health has always been a struggle in the industry however she added UPD is working diligently to fix that.
“There is a lot of pressure in this assignment,” said Morse. “There is a lot of pressure from this job.”
Pressure has been building up for decades in law enforcement according to Lt. Morse.
Mental health has slowly been on the decline but COVID-19 made it worse.
“Initially it was never talked about and a lot of the advice you would hear about would just be suck it up buttercup and get back to work kind of things,” said Morse.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness cites nearly one in four police officers have thoughts of suicide at some point in their life.
“Your mental health is incredibly important,” said Morse. “It is as important as your physical health, and you can suffer a mental injury like you can a physical injury.”
Morse said UPD offers various mental health resources, and it has allowed a more open dialogue.
She said officers work on making sure their mental health is in check.
“What we want to do is encourage,” said Morse. “Check in on your buddy and ask how they are doing and if you see a problem then maybe alert a supervisor so we can get that intervention before it delves into something we can’t bring them back from.”
Because of the need for mental health services, UPD is looking for volunteers on its Salt Lake County Metro Mental Health Unit.
“We have so many people in our community that have some mental health issues and we want to get them the help they need because really the criminal justice system is not necessarily the place for them,” said Sgt. Melody Cutler.
The commitment would be 16 hours a month and the volunteer would help with crisis intervention.
“I think it is just giving back to your community and being part of your community and understanding there is a need out there,” said Cutler.
Morse said many law enforcement officers will bottle up their trauma which can cause various mental health problems like addiction and sleep disorders.
She said always take the time to check in on those around you.