Local group combats increasing mental health concerns in first responders

DENVER (KDVR) — An organization is working to address the growing mental health concerns among law enforcement and further relationships within the community.

It’s estimated that 30% of first responders develop behavioral health conditions, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

First responders are usually the first on scene in any disaster or emergency, many times also the first to provide emotional and physical support to victims.

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While these duties are essential to keeping the community safe, the stress and trauma that comes with the job can really take a toll on mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stress from the job can be associated with elevated risk for suicide, anxiety and depression.

It’s a concern first responder expert Al Eskanazy is working to address.

“We are seeing trauma from these officers like never before,” Eskanazy said. “The trauma of the incident is not a one-off situation. Many officers face this situation 200 times a year.”

With some help, Eskanazy founded the Community Police Relations Foundation.

“We formed this foundation simply for the purpose of bringing communities of distress with law enforcement in non-legal matters to get to know each other,” Eskanazy said. “What it allows is for a dialog to begin on a human being, human nature. It’s not a 30 mph police car driving by you with an anonymous robot inside. It’s a person.”

Dedicated to improving law enforcement relationships within the communities they serve, Eskanazy said the foundation hosts events all over the country and spearheads programs to treat mental health issues.

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“We have 6,600 officers and first responders through our program in a little over 3 and a half years,” Eskanazy said.

And sometimes just a sign of appreciation goes a long way.

“When you see a police officer give them a wave, say, ‘Good afternoon, officer. Nice to see you.’ or ‘Thank you for your service,’ or a smile. Don’t say a word, just give them a smile and a nod,” said Eskanazy.

The Community Police Relations Foundation is a nonprofit organization made up of citizens with a passion for uniting communities with local law enforcement.

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