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Help for those who help us | Nassau County investing in mental health of deputies

Counseling proves to be a powerful tool for first responders who struggle with traumatic situations that they witness on the job.

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. — They are the people charged with protecting us and keeping the public safe, but sometimes the trauma that first responders witness on a day-to-day basis can be too much to handle.

A recent study determined that in 2017 more police officers and firefighters died by suicide than in the line of duty. 

One local law enforcement agency hopes to get out in front of this problem before it even starts.

Often times, law enforcement officers and first responders are on the scene of brutal crimes long into the night.  

Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper wants the traumatic experiences that his employees witness to not affect the human that they are behind the badge.

"Law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard from members of their community," Sheriff Leeper said. "They expect you to be above everything, but they're human. We cope with it in different ways, some not as well as others, so we do have programs that we offer to our employees."

These programs range from an outside 3rd party counselor, to the option for peer group conversation and even a service dog on site at headquarters.

This fall was particularly difficult for the Nassau County Sheriff's Office as they laid to rest one of their own. 

Deputy Joshua Moyers was killed in the line of duty in September. Leeper says that many of his staff sought counseling in the wake of Moyers' death.

"We had several of those that work with him that were there on the scene go through that process of talking with others, talking with peers about that situation to make sure they're ok," Leeper said.

Dr. Christine Cauffield is the CEO of LSF Health Systems and says that her organization often works with local agencies to provide grief and mental health counseling.

"We're human beings, our responders are human beings with feelings and emotions," says Cauffield, "nobody escapes the effects of trauma and so it's so important that our responders get the help they deserve so they can move forward in a healthy manner."

LSF Health Systems has a 24/7 care line that is available to everyone, not just first responders.  The toll free number to call a LSF clinical team member is 1-877-229-9098.

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