Conway Police Department works to break stigma surrounding mental health

Grand Strand

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Local law enforcement agencies are working to break the stigma surrounding mental health.

Chief Dale Long with the Conway Police Department told News13 seeking help is important considering the amount of traumatic experiences officers endure on a daily basis.

“It’s a bloody crime scene. It’s death. It’s violence,” said Long, describing the average day for an officer.

He said traumatic scenes are tough to get out of your head. “We’ve known about it and it’s there, but we don’t talk about it enough,” Long said.

He said a simple conversation can make all the difference. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Assistance Program works directly with the department. It offers peer counselor sessions and debriefs after critical situations. Shoreline Behavioral Health Services is an additional resource that offers 10 free visits for the department staff.

“You’re waking up early in the morning. You feel anxious, but you’re not sure what it’s about. You’re having trouble sleeping,” said John Coffin with Shoreline Behavioral Health Services, describing symptoms of mental health.

Recent talks of defunding the police and police brutality, Coffin said can be triggering.

“People are sort of questioning the role of police. Police are contending with much more violence than they were even a year ago,” Coffin said.

While resources are readily available, Long hopes to see more officers take advantage of healing.

“Hopefully if they’ll see me be that open and that I have those same needs they do, then they should not be reluctant to also reach out and ask the same assistance I’m offering them,” Long said.

Long said so far this year, he’s mandated two critical debriefing sessions for the department. Coffin said those sessions prevent long-term issues when done quickly after a critical situation.

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