Carmel makes police mental health a top priority

CARMEL, Ind.-  The city of Carmel will soon have a huge boost in funding aimed at making sure its police officers stay just as healthy mentally as they do physically.

This is happening as national statistics show first responders suffer more mental stress than average Americans.

The city has approved $25,000 dollars in next year’s budget exclusively for police mental and physical health. It's $20,000 more than was spent last year.

Most people never seen many of the sacrifices police make and the mental health stress that often comes hand-in-hand with a badge is especially hard to spot.

“Police officers see and observe things that most people don’t,” said Carmel Police Lt. Joe Bickel.

Victims of homicide, drug overdoses and sexual assaults are things most people never encounter, but can become commonplace for officers.

That’s why the Carmel Police Department has decided to make mental health a top priority.

“If officers need extra help, we have that availability for them,” said Bickel.

Part of the money will fund a bonus program, giving Carmel cops a bump in pay for exceeding certain physical wellness tests. It also funds expanded mental health care services.

“I think it allows officers not only to be physically healthy, but mentally healthy as well,” said Bickel.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life. In smaller departments, the suicide rate for officers increases to nearly four times the national average.

There’s also a higher chance for physical health problems.

“Police officers are 35 times more likely to have a cardio-vascular type disease than most anyone else in the United States,” said Bickel.

But they’re hoping that number is far lower here in Carmel.

“I think having that availability is awesome for officers,” said Bickel.