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Emotional/mental health support available to help officers after tough cases

Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 9:49 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - This week has brought a number of tragedies to the Red River Valley, including Tuesday’s triple-homicide when a couple and their unborn daughter were gunned down in N. Fargo. After tough cases like this, emotional/mental health support systems are in place to help law enforcement.

“So it’s very important to offer that type of service, peer to peer service within law enforcement and first responders.” said Lt. Bill Ahlfeldt.

Dealing with these heavy cases takes a toll on the wellbeing of officers and first responders. At the Fargo Police Dept. they have a peer support team. With the program designed to provide confidential emotional support during and after times of professional crisis.

A statement from the Fargo Police Dept.:

The Fargo Police Department places the highest value and emphasis upon the welfare of its employees and recognizes department personnel face situations which may create significant distress. The Fargo Police Department’s Peer Support Team program is designed to provide confidential emotional support during and after times of personal or professional crisis to members who express a need for assistance, or for whom peers or supervisory staff feel could benefit from program involvement.

In order to provide the best possible service to our community, our officers need to be mentally well. The Department works closely with personnel involved in situations which may create significant distress, provides them peer support, and time away from duty to process the emotional reactions they are experiencing. The City of Fargo offers all personnel confidential and comprehensive counseling services through the Village Family Service Center.

Trauma takes a variety of forms and cannot be accurately or exhaustively quantified in description. There are certain events which are of such magnitude they should be considered disruptive to nearly anyone involved. Situations appropriate for Peer Support Team activation and usage include, but are not limited to: line of duty deaths/serious injuries, high risk incidents, incidents involving serious injury or death to others, natural disasters, significant events (duty and non-duty related) and shootings.

“Long periods of time where you don’t get help creates mental health problems. It’s very important, it means to me that our mental health at our agency and law enforcement and first responders in general are better because of it.” said Lt. Ahlfeldt.

Other agencies in the Fargo-Moorhead area have support groups as well. Moorhead PD for example have one of the only embedded counselors in the nation within their dept., that focuses on the mental health of the staff and the community. Lt. Ahlfeldt says he has seen the importance of addressing mental health grow over the years saying that before he started, there wasn’t much discussion over the topic.

“It was starting to shift where officers felt comfortably talking to officers about it, but it took some time to get to the point where we are at now.” said Lt. Ahlfeldt.

Here are some resources available to the public who are looking for help with mental health:

National Suicide Hotline - 1-800-273-8255

FirstLink - 211

Lifeline and Caring - 701-293-6462

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