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WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio | Columbus News, Weather & Sports |

Mental health help for Columbus officers after violent 2020

Deirdre DeLong with the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio Foundation says officers are not great at asking for help after traumatic events.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As you hear about horrific events, like the two little sisters who were shot and killed by their father in Columbus, it's like a punch to the gut even to those who didn't know the family.

“Just a horrible, horrible situation,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther.

Can you imagine responding to the call for help?

“The officers that responded on the scene attempted to revive the little girls, and even drove themselves to the hospital.  When they got the news, it was just devastating to them,” Ginther said.

That's why there's been a push to expand peer response teams for police officers.

“The humanity that remains underneath of what happens to be a very protected exterior,” said Deirdre DeLong.

Delong is with the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio Foundation. She's also a retired police officer.

“We are supposed to be the protectors, and we are supposed to be serving, we want to give help. Cops are great at giving help. They are crappy at asking for it,” DeLong said.

She says more peer response teams are being offered statewide to officers who have responded to traumatic events, making sure they too are getting the help they need.

“The vast majority of support are what we call one-on-ones, individual peer support. You and I sit down and have a talk. My question to you will not be what happened, my question to you will be how are you?” DeLong said.

With a record number of homicides in 2020, she says the need for mental health tools is just as important for officers as any other training.

“This is an issue of survival. This is an investment, not just in the human, but in the financial investment of training this person because you are asking them to make extraordinary decisions,” DeLong said.

The peer response teams only respond if they are called.

Everything they do, even the calls they go out on are strictly confidential to make sure officers feel comfortable getting that mental health help.