Each year, more than 50,000 members of law enforcement are physically assaulted while on the duty. As a result, thousands of officers suffer injuries ranging from minor to debilitating and life altering. Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) is often a consequence of these attacks. PTSI, commonly referred to as the silent injury, can be as deadly as bullet. The Wounded Blue, the national assistance and support organization for injured and disabled law enforcement officers, provides resources for officers that have experienced physical and emotional injuries on duty.
While officers are provided mental health resources through their departments, they often aren’t utilized, for fear of stigmatization, retribution, or reprisal, as well as concerns about confidentiality. Law Enforcement administration’s reaction to an officer’s emotional or physical injury can have a dramatic effect on the onset of PTSI or the healing from the physical injury. The abandonment experienced by injured officers can amplify the symptoms of PTSI.
As a result, these officers are seeking alternative avenues for help, like The Wounded Blue.
The organization, founded by Lt. Randy Sutton, a highly-decorated, 24 year veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and host of Blue Lives Radio, The Voice of American Law Enforcement on the America Outloud Network, is working to de-stigmatize mental health within the law enforcement community through its Peer Advocate Support Program and community outreach. The Peer Advocate Support Program handles nearly 100 calls a week from officers and is supported by twenty peer advocates. Each member of the highly trained peer team is a former or current law enforcement officer, with many disabling injuries among the group. They know the environment, exposures and traumas officers encounter daily. They are a trusted confidant.
The peer advocates understand that every law enforcement officer injured, physically or emotionally, in the line of duty has unique needs. This team stands ready to answer the calls, listen to the officer’s story, and assist or access other resources for that individual, as needed.
The demand for confidential peer support is evident in the increasing number of suicides among officers on the job, disabled or retired. Suicide is an epidemic within the law enforcement community, and The Wounded Blue is leading the way by providing support and advocating for officers in need of PTSI assistance, with the goal of decreasing suicides.
Accepting that one is struggling with PSTI is the first step for many officers. Seeking an outlet for support is second. Through the strength of a peer network, The Wounded Blue provides a reliable foundation for first line support. A simple phone call to a stranger with similar experiences can hugely impact the life of an officer. The confidentiality helps create is immediate trust and validation, which break down barriers when a person is in a vulnerable state.
Through its membership program, The Wounded Blue also provides access to a secondary behavioral health program, Confidential Assistant Program for Emergency Responders (CAPER), designed specifically for law enforcement, that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
This confidential program, a true behavior health program, in combination with the resources provided by law enforcement organizations, is a major step forward for safe guarding law enforcement officers.
CAPER offers phone, virtual and face-to-face mental health services with trained mental health professionals. Their program provides a comprehensive database of resources, articles, screenings, webinars and videos.
PTSI can affect others outside of the injured officer. Spouses, fellow officers and children can also be impacted by on-duty incidents. It is important to recognize that a traumatic incident while on the job has far-reaching and long-lasting impacts within the officer’s immediate network. The CAPER program is available to blue family members as well. Providing comprehensive support for an officer’s family is equally important in the healing process.
In addition to providing mental health resources, The Wounded Blue is educating departments and agencies nationally with their presentation, Walking with the Wounded.
Through a partnership with Law Enforcement Today, the organization is profiling heroic stories of injured or disabled officers. Together, they are capturing the narratives of the brave and their hardships, recoveries and lives with injury or disability.
By sharing their experiences, The Wounded Blue and Law Enforcement Today will bring light to the unpredictable danger officers face daily and the arduous recoveries they endure, as well as break down the barriers around PTSI.
To learn more about The Wounded Blue, please visit https://thewoundedblue.org. To view their award winning documentary film, The Wounded Blue Service. Sacrifice. Betrayed please visit Amazon.
If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSI, please encourage them to reach out to The Wounded Blue Peer Team, and remind them that they are never forgotten and never alone.