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Hennepin County Sheriff's Office taking new focus on its employees' mental health

Updated: November 20, 2019 06:41 PM

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office is adding staff to help its employees with mental health issues.

Deputies and police officers can see many traumatic things on the job that few others can relate to, which can take a toll on their lives.

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Just two weeks ago, two officers in the Twin Cities died by suicide on the same day, and law enforcement officers are asking how they can help.

"We need to do a better job as administration to make sure out staff gets the services they need," Sheriff David Hutchinson said.

The sheriff's office just hired a full-time clinical therapist as part of a new program called "Try Wellness," focusing on mind, body and spirit.

"Suicide and law enforcement has always been troubling, but the last couple years...this year is the worst. Over 200 officers have taken their own lives. That's up from 160 some last year," Hutchinson said.

"We have a culture that we need to overcome in terms of creating safety to say that I need help. And that's kind of my goal here to be able to be that person to help kind of being an advocate for change in terms of creating an environment where it's going to be normalized hopefully that it's just okay to get the help before something gets worse," said Rachel Peterson, a clinical therapist.

Peterson herself is a former police officer who then went back to school to become a therapist. She believes she's the first full-time mental health clinician to work for a law enforcement agency in Minnesota.

She said officers are usually the first ones to go into scary situations, but are often the last to ask for help.

Hutchinson is also working to start a peer-to-peer support group with other agencies in the region so officers can connect and support each other. He hopes Hennepin County can serve as a model to the concept will continue to spread.

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Kevin Doran

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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