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  • News Channel 312

    Be Mindful: Santa Maria Police Department prioritizes mental health practices for officers

    By Christina Rodriguez,


    SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Leaders at the Santa Maria Police Department focus on building their team's overall lifestyle, wanting their department to be physically, mentally and financially stable. In order to achieve this goal, however, they start by addressing one key factor: mental health.

    Police Chief Marc Schneider and Sergeant Felix Diaz at the Santa Maria Police Department spoke with Your News Channel about how the department prioritizes the mental health of their officers with additional programs and resources.

    Diaz and Schneider said officers live through traumatic events on a daily basis, even multiple times a day in many instances. Officers are typically the first on the scene and can witness events from fatal car accidents to shootings.

    The first step after a traumatic event for SMPD is a mandatory "debrief" where everyone involved in the incident, from dispatch to officers, have a group meeting to talk about their emotions.

    If officers feel like they need additional resources, they are referred to the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). Mental health providers, counselors and therapists are available for officers to receive further assistance. Programs can also be available for spouses and children law enforcement. Medical professionals are trained to specifically understand the work of law enforcement and the events they may encounter on a day to day basis to better understand their needs.

    SMPD is going above and beyond for their officers with additional mental health resources. The department has created "Peer Support" and a new Mental Health Wellness Program to better serve their officers.

    SMPD created Peer Support after one of their own committed suicide. This incident resonated with many people on the team and they decided to have regular check-ins with their officers. Peer Support includes volunteer members from administration to police officers who regularly check-in on one another. This resource is more casual, team members can ask officers how they are doing and if they would like to take some time to talk about anything that's on their mind. Volunteers may do this once a day or on a need to need basis. Sgt. Diaz said, "You can always tell when an officer isn't doing well," and having the initial conversation with an officer can push them to contact a therapist.

    The department is continuing their effort to prioritize Mental Health with their new Wellness Program. Their efforts began nearly a year ago to create team and family bonding within the department. The station will plan wellness events with physical activities or family barbecues to create a supportive environment.

    Chief Schneider said it is important to include spouses and children in the wellness program. SMPD said they believe in creating a family-like environment that understands each other and supports one another. Sgt. Diaz said they will continue to better educate themselves and their officers on Mental Health practices to better the well-being of their team, show them value and appreciation. They have plans for the future to create more resources for officers, offer a variety of classes and even financial advisory to help them manage their finances. Sgt. Diaz said they want their officers to be taken care of out on patrol and at home with their families. He said the less stress they have the better they can serve our communities.

    If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, the national suicide prevention lifeline is available 24/7 via text or call at 988 .

    The post Be Mindful: Santa Maria Police Department prioritizes mental health practices for officers appeared first on News Channel 3-12 .

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