SPRINGFIELD, Mo — Mental toughness is one of the most important, but at times overlooked parts of the job of the police. Reaction time needs to be instant, and there’s a need to mentally switch gears depending on the situation.
Corporal Chris Welsh says they’re trying to keep things regulated between the unpredictable in the world and normalcy.
“Once you experience other victims traumas every day, it goes in your brain and it stays in there, and you can only get so many memories and so many past events that it begins to bother you,” Welsh said.
So to help out with that, last fall the SPD began the Officer Wellness Program, as a way to help them cope. Melissa Daugherty has had experience in helping these officers out.
“If I do a mental health training, I’ll talk about officer self-care,” Daugherty explained. “A lot will come up to me afterward and say ‘I have been struggling can you get me some help’. You can tell it’s a really big step.”
The Springfield Police Officers Association arranges for visits for the officer and his or her family to see a therapist to help deal with issues. All sessions are paid for through the association’s union fees.
“I thought it was hugely necessary,” said therapist Dr. Joseph Hulgus. “But they know the impact PTSD has and it’s time they have better access and encouragement and broke the mold.”
The method used is EMDR Therapy – eye movement desensitization re-processing – to get rid of triggers that may promote PTSD.
“Sometimes it can be smells, sights, a song on the radio, a part of a town that they enter that it’ll come back to hit them,” Daugherty said. “They have triggers accumulated and they might not be aware of it.”
It takes care of the effective part of a memory while the cognitive side stores that memory away without any sensitivity to it.
Dr. Hulgus explained how he uses that therapy simply with lights and vibrations.
“It has light stimulation, and it has tactical and it actually has auditory (stimulation) too,” he said.
Following that process helps the patient better process traumatic memories.
“As people process things, it’s sort of like archaeology,” he said. “You don’t know what you’ll encounter, but you go through layers. So images, beliefs, feelings might come up and that’s ok. On a scale of zero to ten, (we) keep working it down to zero or near zero.”