Mental-Health Advocates Push for More Services for Officers Amid Protests Over Policing
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal was leaving a holiday police luncheon in 2018 when a smiling police officer walked up and greeted him in Mr. Grewal’s native language of Punjabi.
The officer, Pablo Santiago, told him that he did monthly volunteer work at a Sikh temple in Lawrenceville, N.J., cooking food and giving it out to the city’s homeless and low-income residents.
Mr. Grewal was touched by Mr. Santiago’s good work and agreed to join him for a volunteer day at the temple. But the two never met again. Three weeks later, Mr. Santiago, 42 years old, died by suicide after shooting himself.
In 2019, inspired by Mr. Santiago’s death, Mr. Grewal created the New Jersey Resiliency Program for Law Enforcement, a program that trains officers to better handle the stress of police work.
That same year, following a string of officer suicides in New York City, New York Police Department officials created a program to provide better psychological support to officers.
Officials in the NYPD and in New Jersey say the programs have been helpful, with an increasing number of officers taking advantage of therapy.
Police and mental-health experts say these efforts are especially needed now. They say support programs for officers are critical amid public outcry over the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed in police custody in Minneapolis. His death has spurred nationwide protests over police brutality and racism.
Dr. Michael Bizzarro, director of clinical services for first responders at New Jersey’s Penn ...
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