Mental health at the forefront of new police wellness program | Delaware News


NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) – A class of officers in training at the New Castle County Police Department knelt on mats set up on the gymnasium floor early one morning.

“Concentrate on your breathing,” explained Jennifer Boileau.

The early morning yoga lesson was part of the new Federal Grant-funded Holistic Officers Wellness Program aimed at addressing the mental health needs of those serving in the force.

“Officers experience enormous levels of stress… on a daily basis,” said Boileau, a trauma-informed yoga instructor. “Continuous stress takes its toll on the body. It affects the brain. It affects the nervous system. And it affects their overall sense of well-being.

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A 2020 study published in the National Library of Medicine found that 26% of police officers had mental health symptoms, compared to 21% of the general population that year.

However, mental illness often comes with a lot of stigma, especially in the police force. sergeant. Eugene Reid said he hopes this program will change that.

“We realize that by providing resources…we can provide better service to the citizens of New Castle County,” Reid said.

These resources are available “from hire to retirement,” Reid said. Officers-in-training, serving and retired officers, paramedics and 911 dispatchers, and their families, now have access to personal trainers, financial counselors and, of course, trauma-friendly yoga sessions with Boileau.

Prior to the introduction of the Holistic Officer Wellness Program, Reid said officers only had access to certified counselors through the department’s Employee Assistance Program.

Now, Boileau says she’s already seen the benefits of these expanded resources in action. Officers-in-training came to his lessons after ‘very stressful incidents’, but the practice of yoga and meditation has ‘enabled them to feel a much deeper sense of peace and to kind of come back to that base of self. feeling calm and ready for the rest of their day.

Applying these calming techniques in the field can also help officers respond to mental health crises, which are a growing national concern. Legislation proposed in the US Senate to train police in de-escalation tactics also seeks to address the issue.

The New Castle County Police Department said it plans to expand the holistic officer wellness program to officers in training at other facilities when it has the resources – potentially in the form of grants. additional government.

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