Fishers officer emphasizes mental health care one year after K9 Harlej’s death


FISHERS, Ind. — K9 Patrol Officer Jarred Koopman still has hard days nearly one year after K9 Harlej was killed in the line of duty on November 13, 2019.

Koopman chooses to open up about his sadness to his friends and co-workers in hopes of helping them too.

“They’re like if Jarred’s going through something bad or traumatic and he’s willing to open up, then I can do that too,” Koopman said.

Koopman admits it can be hard for men to talk openly about their feelings. But in his line of work, he believes it is crucial that he and his colleagues take care of their mental health.

“It’s kind of like a sports injury,” Koopman explained. “If you don’t take care of your body or you don’t ice injuries that you have and you go into the next event, you’re already starting behind the eight ball. So I look at it as mental health, if I don’t take care of what I need to take care of or the trauma that I’ve seen or the situations that I’ve been a part of, how am I going to be the best person for the next situation that comes because it’s going to come.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports men are more than 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than women. The agency adds the rate of suicide is highest among white men. They accounted for almost 70% of deaths by suicide in 2018.

“I do think there is a stigma that men have themselves about not showing signs of what they perceive as weakness,” Dr. David Diaz, a psychiatrist with IU Health Physicians Behavioral Health, said.

The Addiction Center reported a 2019 study found police officers are at the highest risk of any profession to die by suicide. Koopman feels the Fishers Police Department’s administrators and city leaders help them feel supported and do connect officers to resources.

“Just knowing that you have the support of your supervisors and administration and also your peer support and the guys you work with,” Koopman said. “It’s not an uncomfortable topic because you have the chief leading by example.”

Diaz said bottling up feelings puts a person at greater risk for suicidal thoughts or worse. He encourages a building strong bonds with another person so you have someone to lean on for support.

“They know you and they know you if you are acting differently, if you are quieter,” Diaz said. “I don’t mean just for a day or an hour, if you’re consistently quieter.”

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