A yearly mandate to seek counseling has had a positive impact on officers’ mental health
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The West Saint Paul police department has modified its mandatory counseling policy, which officials say has gone a long way in improving officer mental health.
Last year, Interim Police Chief Brian Sturgeon mandated that every officer in his department see a counselor once a year whether they needed to or not. He told KTSP the response to that mandate was positive, so he raised the required number of visits to two.
“Our officers see a lot of bad things and we need to ensure that they’re dealing with those properly,” he said.
Matt Hagen, president of the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police, told KTSP the stigma around seeking mental health help has started breaking down, especially as younger officers who are interested in maintaining good mental health join law enforcement.
This mandate is part of a broader focus on officer mental health in the state. KTSP reports that, this week alone, two Minnesota officers died by suicide, which has sparked a state-wide emphasis on officer mental health.
“We have to understand that the stress that our officers are going through on a personal level and the stress that comes with the job,” Sturgeon told KTSP. “Our officers see a lot of bad things. We have to ensure that they’re dealing with those (things) properly.”