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Governor Stitt Celebrates ODMHSAS’ ‘Ask for Backup’ Mental Health Campaign for Law Enforcement

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Today, Governor Kevin Stitt celebrates the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services new mental health campaign “Ask For Backup”; a suicide prevention initiative aimed at creating conversation about mental health and trauma in the law enforcement community.

“It’s long overdue, but we have to start prioritizing the health of our law enforcement officers,” said Governor Stitt. “Mental health, depression and suicide do not discriminate. I believe the “Ask for Backup” initiative from the Department of Mental health and Substance Abuse Service, and the state’s new First Responders Wellness Division will go a long way towards recognizing trauma and preventing officer suicide.”

The program includes a video filmed in partnership with Oklahoma law enforcement agencies, posters, debriefing materials, and information for police departments to share on social media platforms to continue the conversation in-person and online. ‘Ask for Backup’ will work in tandem with a statewide iPad initiative the agency has rolled out over the past several years. Currently, more than 5,000 law enforcement officers across Oklahoma have iPads with 24/7 access to a licensed behavioral health practitioner to assist with assessment, evaluation, de-escalation of crisis and connection to treatment. The iPads are connected directly to one of the agency’s Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers, located statewide.

“Law enforcement is a vulnerable population, because the trauma and toxic feelings don’t leave when the uniform comes off,” said ODMHSAS Commissioner Carrie Slatton-Hodges. “Some officers may think they can’t ask for help believing it shows weakness or they might damage their careers. This perpetuates the stigma. We want to change that and it helps to have police departments joining in this effort.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that occupational stress in first responders can be associated with increased risk of serious mental health issues including hopelessness, anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, and suicidal behaviors such as suicidal ideation and actual attempts. Many studies have shown that police officers, in fact, are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. The lifetime prevalence of suicidal ideation among police officers was approximately 25% in female officers and 23% for male officers, while attempt rates ranged from 0.7% to 55%, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) noted.

“It’s not often that our everyday heroes need rescuing, but we have found that a peer-to-peer relationship is often the best route of support,” said Commissioner Slatton-Hodges. “That’s why programs such as ‘Ask for Backup’ and partnerships with organizations like ‘Warriors Rest Foundation’ work so well, because other officers have ‘been there,’ they’ve seen the trauma, they’ve felt the feelings and they can provide backup. But it doesn’t have to be an officer. There are so many other options available. We have 988 now and each police department involved will make a list of resources available.”

Partnering agencies were the Oklahoma City Police Department, Warrior’s Rest Foundation, Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, Noble Police Department, Mustang Police Department, Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association.

ODMHSAS’ webpage dedicated to the campaign can be found here

Last Modified on Oct 04, 2022
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