Efforts to help police handle stresses of the job - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Efforts to help police handle stresses of the job

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MURPHYSBORO -- Across the country, more police officers die each year by suicide than in the line of duty. That alarming statistic prompted Kentucky lawmakers to propose a bill, that would create a counseling and peer support program to help police cope with the aftermath of the job. News Three talked with a local Chief about the stresses officers in Illinois face, and the importance of having mental health resources. 

Police officers respond to nearly every tragedy in a community. Murphysboro Police Chief Chad Roberts says seeing things like child abuse, shootings and car accidents takes its toll. 

"I have been doing this my entire adult life and there are things I remember from 20 years ago like they were yesterday," said Roberts. 

In the two decades Chief Roberts has worn a badge, he's seen fellow officers handle the mental stresses of the job differently. Some turn to family members, faith leaders or mental health professionals; while others don't know where to turn. 

"Some people turn to less effective ways like alcoholism and other things to deal with it," said Roberts. 

To help keep his officers mentally healthy, Roberts implemented a "Chaplain See" program when he became chief. He trained seven area chaplains to serve as volunteer auxillary officers. They're allowed to ride with officers to talk with them about whatever stresses they're encountering. 

"I do know that officers have developed relationships with the chaplains, but the chaplains don't report to me what the officers talk about, how often they talk or anything like that," said Roberts. 

Roberts says a lot of money and time is spent training and educating police, but he says once they hit the streets more needs to be done nationwide to help them handle what they see. 

"We also have to spend the resources after they're trained to make sure they stay effective and make sure they stay healthy," said Roberts. 

Roberts says his goal is to give his officers the resources to handle mentally tough situations, so they continue to have a healthy work life and a healthy home life. 

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