The following article was published in the Post Register by Johnathan Hogan on Feb. 3, 2022.
The Greater Idaho Falls Police Foundation hosted its first-ever event Wednesday and Thursday, with presentations on police mental health.
The foundation, which opened in December, was founded to raise donations for Idaho Falls law enforcement, including the Idaho Falls Police Department, Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office and the District 6 office of Idaho State Police.
The foundation paid for former Flagstaff Police Department Deputy Chief Robert White to give a presentation both days on emotional survival for police officers. The program is based off a book, “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement: A Guide for Officers and Their Families” written by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin, a behavioral scientist focused on law enforcement.
As part of his presentation, White focused on how work in law enforcement can influence an officer’s ability to connect with friends and family. He noted that officers often struggle to form friendships outside of their profession, and that the stress of their jobs can leave them exhausted when they come home to their families.
White shared some of his own experience, saying his father had similar struggles from working three jobs and would be distant when coming home. He later saw some of those behaviors in himself, which he said contributed to the end of his first marriage.
In the United States, about half of marriages end in divorce, but for marriages involving law enforcement officers the rate increases to 70%, according to the American Psychological Association.
Discussions of mental health topics have become less taboo in recent years as officers have opened up about their personal struggles.
”More officers kill themselves than are killed in felony crimes,” said Don Stevens, a member of the foundation’s board of directors and its programs chairman.
Stevens said the foundation has future plans for events focusing on addiction among officers, as well as raising funds for equipment.
Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson has addressed mental health concerns for officers during his time in the department, requiring officers to see a counselor at least once a year and having officers trained to recognize signs fellow officers are struggling.
(The foundation) hopefully can do some things beyond what governments can do,” Johnson said. “The city does a good job of doing what’s their responsibility. These guys help go the extra mile.”