Huntsville police develop program to help officers support each other, emotionally and mentally

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Huntsville police are joining the ranks of departments across the country aiming to be proactive about mental health by developing a peer support program for officers.

“As police officers, we tend to be more private about what we do," said Lt. Jesse Sumlin, an officer helping to research and plan the program.

In 2019, a record number of current or former police officers died by suicide: 228.

A study showed that 90 percent of police officers believe there’s a stigma that creates a barrier to seeking help and support when it’s needed.

“You wear the uniform, you’re supposed to be tough," Sumlin said. "But nah it’s not like that, because mental health is just as important as physical health.”

Officers will volunteer to train for the program, so that whenever it's needed, a fellow officer will have someone to lean on.

“Officers can call on this individual to talk to them about any type of situation they’re maybe going through on a daily basis, or just one incident that they may want to talk about because it’s stressful," Sumlin explained.

This program is still in the beginning of the development process. A coordinator has been selected and will be announced to the public soon. The program could be fully in place by the beginning of next year.

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