Officer helps cops cope with stress, trauma

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An IMPD officer is working to prevent his colleagues from letting the stresses of the job get the best of them with a fairly new counseling program.

With the stress of keeping an entire community safe, too many police officers struggle with mental and emotional issues. Many area police departments offer an Employee Assistance Program which consists of confidential counseling for any problems. However, officers have to make the decision to take part and if they do, the departments are not in the loop about their recovery. Some officers Fox59 spoke with even wished there was more help available for them.

Two years ago, Captain Brian Nanavaty decided enough was enough and took the steps to facilitate help for his fellow officers. He said it’s common for the community – even the officers – to forget that they are not super heroes.

“We wear a cape to work. That’s the way we think of ourselves,” he said.

In reality, he said, law enforcement is one of the most stressful jobs around. He compared it to filling a cup that can and will overflow at some time or another.

“Each traumatic incident fills your cup and at some point your cup spills over.”

So he created a program at IMPD that helps cops get through the tough times and allows them to talk to someone that can relate. Part of it relates to their wellness and the other part focuses on their development as a police officer.

While Nanavaty doesn’t have a medical degree and doesn’t consider himself a doctor, he said his phone rings off the hook throughout the day and night with calls from struggling officers. And he’s happy to help knowing that it could prevent a tragedy such as a suicide, an outburst or an officer causing harm to others.

“I’ve had officers come in and not say a word for the first five minutes and then the flood gates open,” he explained.

Some have financial distress, relationship distress, or are struggling with drinking problems. He and three others will refer the officers to a mental health professional when needed.

In the beginning, he admitted, metro officers didn’t come in on their own, but the culture has since changed.

“People walking through the door, officers being referred by peers… before something happens, before that cup gets full… that’s increased 300 percent in the last two years.”

That is a huge accomplishment for IMPD and for the community, because it’s not just about making sure our officers are okay. Ultimately, it’s about keeping you safe.

“Who do you want knocking on your door? Do you want a healthy officer showing up? Or somebody who is dealing with all kinds of issues?”

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