Team works to break stigma of police officers seeking emotional support

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – Nick Knoblock wears a lot of hats. He’s a husband, a father, a musician and a singer-songwriter.

He also patrols downtown as a Sacramento police officer.

“Get a hobby because if not, this job is going to eat you alive,” he said.

That’s advice he gives the new officers he trains as part of a peer support team within the police department. They direct officers who have been through trauma on the job to the emotional resources they need.

“'Are you OK? How does this affect you?' It might sound like a weird question but it's good to just talk it out with people and once you get used to asking it, it just becomes kind of normal,” Knoblock said. “You can talk about it.”

The challenge, however, is that Knoblock said far too few officers want to talk about it – even if there’s a loss within their own ranks.

In June, 26-year-old Officer Tara O’Sullivan was shot and killed in the line of duty. Knoblock said her death hit the department hard.

“It’s just a wakeup call and it’s something that, it reminds you like, yep, this can happen every day,” he said. “I make sure every day that I kiss my three kids goodbye and I say goodbye to my wife. And I honestly think about it every day when I leave and when I come home I’m like, ‘Alright, cool, I came home.’”

Law enforcement chaplain Mindi Russell, like Knoblock, helps officers through emotional stress.

She said officers can be put in life-threatening situations any day. The up-and-down adrenaline sand the scenarios where they fear they won’t make it home take a serious toll.

“To every officer killed in the line of duty there’s two to three that kill themselves,” Russell said. “That’s way too many.”

According to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit that advocates for the mental wellness of law enforcement officers, 183 law enforcement officers died by suicide so far in 2019. That number has steadily increased since 2015.

“'If I ask for help, I’m weak.' If we can break that stigma, if we can break that mentality, we’re going to have a lot more healthier officers,” Russell told FOX40.

Tim Davis, president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, said it’s not an easy time to be a police officer, from dealing with in the line of duty deaths to facing community criticism.

“They put experiences in their mind that the human mind's not made to handle,” he said.

But Davis said his team, like Officer Knoblock, is up for the challenge.

“The main thing is that we’re all just regular people,” he said. “Once we’re done at work, we’re done. And we go home and we have families and hobbies and other things that we're into. And go home and have regular lives.”

 

Cassandra Webb contributed to this report.

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