Congress facing a bill that would support law enforcement officers

(The Center Square) – On National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is urging law enforcement officers and first responders who might be struggling with PTSD to take advantage of free resources. She’s also once again calling on Congress to pass a bill that will provide increased support for public safety officers.

“As we recognize National PTSD Awareness Day, I want to encourage anyone struggling, to seek help – especially our brave law enforcement officers,” Moody said. “These officers are exposed to traumatic events while protecting and serving the public, and these experiences can affect their mental health and leave them suffering in silence. No one should have to bear these burdens alone. There are caring professionals who want to help and are available around the clock – so any law enforcement officer struggling with PTSD, please seek help ≠ it may be the bravest act of your career.”

According to a new report published by the Ruderman Family Foundation, “police officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.”

In 2020, 116 police officers committed suicide; 127 firefighters and EMS personnel also committed suicide.

“Shame and stigma, which are often associated with the suicide of first responders, lead to secrecy and silence surrounding the event, preventing appropriate processing of it by colleagues of the deceased. Programs aimed at promoting awareness of first responders’ mental health and at preventing suicide have not borne sufficient fruit so far,” the report states.

“There is an urgent need to improve the registration and research of first responder suicides,” it adds.

Approximately 100,000 active police officers in the U.S. suffer from PTSD, according to a 2020 report published by the U.S. Department of Justice; many also live with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation, the report found.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it,” the Mayo Clinic states. “Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

“Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD.”

Moody and 52 attorneys general from states and territories have urged Congress to pass the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022. The bill would support public safety officers suffering from PTSD by designating work-related PTSD as a “line-of duty” injury for eligible officers and those disabled from attempted suicide. It also would allow families of officers who die by trauma-linked suicide to apply for death benefits.

Police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians are roughly 25 times more likely to develop PTSD compared to the general public, they wrote in a letter addressed to congressional leaders.

“Currently, public safety officers who have died or are disabled as a result of suicide, suicide attempts, or PTSD do not qualify for the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB), despite the fact that they are more likely to die by suicide than all other line-of-duty deaths combined,” they explain. They also cite a National Alliance on Mental Illness report that found that “1 in 4 police officers have had thoughts of suicide at least once in their lives.”

The bipartisan bill has been endorsed by the American Psychological Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Sergeants Benevolent Association, National Sheriffs Association, Blue H.E.L.P, the National Border Patrol Council, and the United States Capitol Police Labor Committee.