The New York University Center on Violence and Recovery released today (Wednesday, April 16, 2008) the results of a three-year (2005-2007) study on peer support programs for NYPD officers, the Public Safety Trauma Response Study. Two programs available through the NYPD were studied: the Early Intervention Unit (EIU), which is located inside the department; and Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance (POPPA), a not-for-profit organization that also serves police officers and is located outside the department. Both programs use uniformed officers as peers who encourage other officers to get the mental health support they need.
The study examined police attitudes and beliefs about help seeking for work-related and other stress, awareness and utilization of the peer programs, and how police officers manage day-to-day stress.
Researchers at the Center, including Linda Mills, principal investigator and founder of the Center, Peggy Grauwiler, and Briana Barocas, conclude that the NYPD has taken a leadership role in the US by developing a police preparedness strategy that includes both prevention and intervention services for meeting the mental health needs of police officers.
The police department today offers a web of officer-support programs that work together to ensure New York City police officers get the help they need as soon as they need it, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. Without question, these programs will benefit from the incisive research and analysis of Dr. Linda Mills and her team at NYU.
Police officers are confronted with life and death situations, and therefore it is predictable that some officers will experience mental distress. We found that police officers were sometimes resistant to getting mental health assistance, understandably so, given police culture, which is typical of first responder agencies across the country. We learned that with the help of peers, officers could enter treatment and work through their issues quickly. What is clear is that if they can be encouraged to get the help they need, it can really make the difference, Mills said. Offering two programs such as EIU and POPPA is clearly the way to go, as it became evident from the officers we spoke to, that they wanted options. The more options they had in terms of talking to someone, the more likely they were to seek help.
A unique feature of the NYPD programs that makes them so successful, Grauwiler said, is that they rely on fellow officers in encouraging them to get the confidential help they need. Researcher Barocas added, The NYPD is a national leader in developing a meaningful and layered response to the predictable mental health needs of police officers - it is very inspiring.
Louisianas Senator Mary L. Landrieu, who has followed the study with great interest, said, Understanding the mental health needs of our first responders and providing a necessary safety net is our duty to those who serve this nation.
Commissioner Kelly opened todays event, The NYPD Experience: The Promise of Peer Support, which featured national scholars, NYPD officers, and peer counselors discussing the study results.
One police officer who participated anonymously in the study said, Ive seen over the past few years, especially with this police commissioner, pushing the POPPA program, the Early Intervention Unit years ago we never had that.