Group partners with CMPD to provide mental health help for officers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers deal with tough calls -- from homicides to shootings to crimes against children.

Channel 9 reporter Gina Esposito spoke with mental health experts Thursday about a resource to help them work through those experiences.

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“We have a large group of people who are exposed to horrific images every day,” said CMPD operational psychologist David Englert. “Most people, fortunately, never see a dead body outside of a funeral. My crime scene techs see one almost every day.”

Englert, CMPD’s psychologist, said officers visit him daily asking for mental health help.

“There was a recent death at the airport of a small child, and so we went in and sat and talked with all the folks out there that were involved,” he said.

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Englert was talking about a 3-year-old boy who died in October after falling from an escalator inside Charlotte Douglas Airport. Calls involving children, he said, are especially tough for officers. Englert encourages them to seek professional help through the city or Presbyterian Psychological Services in south Charlotte.

The group partners with CMPD and the Charlotte Fire Department, offering six free counseling sessions for them and their families.

The group's executive director, Mary Gail Frawley O’Dea, told Channel 9 that over the past two and half years, most officers come in with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Sleep is an issue. Anxiety, depression, suicidal idealization, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse,” she said. “So, they have everything that everybody else has – plus.”

It's been a tough year for CMPD, which is dealing with a shortage of officers and a high homicide rate. But experts said their work in the counseling office is leading some to a happier and healthier life.

“Just talking to someone who can absorb the stories that they tell is, in itself, healing,” said Englert.

Presbyterian Psychological Services is a nonprofit. It relies on donations to keep the program running with CMPD and CFD, and it will be holding a fundraising 5K and fun walk Nov. 23. It will start at 9 a.m. at Sycamore Brewery in South End.

For more information and to find out how to register, click here.

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