Eden Prairie Police launches new initiative to help keep employees emotionally, physically healthy

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Most of us understand working in law enforcement can be a physically demanding job. But police work also takes a toll on an officer's emotional well-being.

According to the organization Blue H.E.L.P., which works to prevent officer suicide and care for the families afterward, 172 officers died by suicide in 2018. In 2019, it jumped to 228. There have been 15 so far in 2020.

The Eden Prairie Police Department just launched a new initiative aimed at helping every department employee, not just cops.

Police officer wellness the focus of new department policy in West St. Paul

"We're calling it a check-up from the neck up," said Eden Prairie Police Chief Greg Weber. "Historically, I think we have recognized that taking care of our employees' physical well-being, through physical exercise, through teaching them how to get good rest, how to eat well, we've done a good job with that. One of the critical components that we're recognizing now is that we need to work on their emotional well-being."

According to Chief Weber, the traumatic things officers see on the job can take a toll, especially over time.

"Whether it be an exposure to a particularly traumatic event or it could be the cumulative effect of going into that emotional harm's way for a prolonged career. Are we doing enough to make sure we take care of our staff for what they see and what they experience?" he said.

The fact is, many police department employees deal with pretty heavy stuff. So from now on, every staff member, sworn and civilian, will meet privately once a year with a mental health professional. Part of the initiative is reacting to an increase in officer suicides.

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"We're recognizing we're seeing a significant increase in the number of suicides among police officers," said Weber. "And we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to watch for the warning signs and provide some type of relief from the stresses they face on the job."

The Eden Prairie Police Department wants to make sure employees are being taken care of physically and emotionally. Weber hopes the check-up from the neck up initiative will help staff feel more comfortable talking with mental health experts, so they'll be healthy at work and at home.