Caring for the mental health of first responders

The late evening news on KEVN Black Hills Fox Monday-Friday
Published: Jul. 21, 2023 at 9:15 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - According to the substance abuse and mental health services administration, 30 percent of first responders are estimated to develop behavioral health conditions.

It is also estimated that 125 to 300 police officers commit suicide every year.

To help with some of these issues in August of 2020, the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office started a wellness program that focuses on the overall mental health of law enforcement.

“Our employees are very valuable to us; they do an outstanding job. As a result of what they have to experience on a daily basis we need to make sure that were taking care of them,” said Corey Brubakken, wellness coordinator, PCSO.

One of the factors helping the mental health of their 431 employees is Harley.

Harley is a therapy dog and has been working for the sheriff’s office since July 2021.

“Harleys’ role is to help people cope and to get through those very difficult times,” said Brubakken.

Harley normally works Monday, Wednesday, and Friday but is also on-call.

For other first responders such as firefighters, it is estimated that at least 100 commit suicide every year.

To help with their mental health and wellness, the Rapid City Fire Department has a peer support team.

“The team is all trained professionally with outside resources. We do quarterly training throughout the year, and we work directly with our psychiatrist as needed,” said Keith Trojanowski, Batalon Chief RCFD.

According to Kaiser Permanente firefighters and law enforcement officers are less likely to die in the line of duty and more likely to die by suicide.

If you or someone you know is suffering from thoughts of suicide or mental health issues you can call 988.