Law enforcement officers are both a part of the community they serve and the government protecting that community. While protecting our community, officers of the Kissimmee Police Department and surrounding agencies are exposed to traumatic calls on a daily basis. Being witness to child abuse, domestic violence, death, and other stressors may lead to the development of mental illness.
Chief Jeffrey O’Dell and the Kissimmee Police Department have worked to develop an interagency system to support its staff and the community when it comes to dealing with mental health.
In 2019, there was an abundance of officer suicides across the law enforcement profession. At this point, the department knew that something preventative had to be done. A study by Healio found in a survey of 434 police officers that 12% reported a lifetime mental health diagnosis, 26% had positive screening results for current mental illness symptoms, and 17% had sought mental health care services in the last 12 months. So how could the Kissimmee Police Department help its officers deal with regular exposure to traumatizing stressors and events?
By providing fitness and nutrition training, information about where to go for mental health assistance, and attending classes for officer stress and suicide, the department’s goal is to provide a healthy environment in a stressful field of work.
Mental health is not only a priority for officers within the department but all staff. For example, dispatchers are the first to speak with victims. Working to keep them calm until help arrives is also stressful.
Peer programs are available within the department but are not as popular because of the stigma surrounding mental health. KPD hopes to help break stigma by allowing officers who need assistance to get the help they need to live a mentally healthy life.
The Kissimmee Police Department provides Crisis Intervention Training for officers, providing information for officers so they are better able to serve the community, including how to handle instances involving residents with mental illnesses.
The department also provides youth mental health training, which is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent who is experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge or is in crisis. The course introduces:
The department realizes that making mental health a priority and understanding how to carry-out calls involving those with mental illnesses will make for a healthier environment for the whole community.
Chief Jeffrey O’Dell stated, “The issues surrounding mental health, both in our community and among our personnel, are a priority for the Kissimmee Police Department. Through training specifically dealing with persons in a mental health crisis, we have become better in our response as law enforcement officers. We have a much better understanding of identifying those situations and, in doing so, are in a better position to calm the situation. We have progressed to find avenues to get the person the treatment necessary versus situations that may have resulted in an arrest years ago. We have also developed personnel wellness initiatives inside the agency that provides support to our personnel as well as avenues available to get them any assistance necessary.”
The Check-In Project and Kissimmee Police Department share a common goal of breaking the stigma surrounding mental health in the community. You can help by taking the pledge to check-in with at least one friend or family member each month.