BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Rio Grande Valley law enforcement agencies are taking a stand for mental health, as more resources are being added to train officers off and on the field.
“We have to deal with a lot of different types of people who are going through extreme stress, people with mental health issues so a lot of times we have to de-escalate situations before we can solve anybody’s problem,” said Martin Sandoval, Public Information Officer with the Brownsville Police Department.
Sandoval said it is important for officers to manage their stress as it could impact both their physical and mental health. He adds it is now more common for officers to speak up.
“Back in the days it was frowned upon for an officer to say he’s having some type of stress issues, now there’s a lot of help through every department,” said Sandoval.
Whether it is a domestic dispute or a homicide call, law enforcement has to be ready to respond.
“When you’re operating on a high level of hypervigilance it’s not easy to turn it off and when your workday is done you’re still in a hypervigilant state where you are still looking for the potential next threat,” said Captain David Friedlein with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the Alliance of Mental Illness, police officers report higher rates of depression, anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). South Texas Health System is working to help officers manage their stress.
“We need to separate because if you don’t you’re taking out your stress on people that don’t deserve it. You’re either going home and taking out your stress on your family or you’re going to work and taking it out on the public,” said Heidi Balleza Ruiz a Licensed Professional Counselor at STHS Behavioral.
Ruiz said creating a routine for exercise and healthy eating can help anyone dealing with stress and adds it is also okay to ask for help when needed.