LMPD opens up on mental health, how officers are helping each other

LMPD’s Peer Support Group is a group of officers who have experience dealing with traumatic events and are there for any officer who needs them.
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 7:12 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Police officers don’t often open up about trauma.

“We’re trying to push this new wave that it’s OK to talk about your feelings,” Joel Lopez, the head of LMPD’s Peer Support Group told WAVE News.

On Monday morning, tragedy struck at the Old National Bank in downtown Louisville. The level of violence shocked the community and will be embedded in the minds of the officers who had to respond and see the horror first hand.

“What we see is not normal,” Lopez said. “What we see is to what the average person sees and Monday was the most extreme example of that.”

LMPD’s Peer Support Group comes in response to the trauma. They are a group of officers who have experience dealing with traumatic events and are there for any officer who needs them.

“We are showing support by being there and offering any services we can for that family,” LMPD Major Bryan Edelen said. “We let them know how proud we are that we wear the same badge and uniform that their son, that their boyfriend, that their friend, that their brother wear. The family today, there were smiles in that room. They are feeling the love.”

The group has been at the hospital with Nick Wilt, the officer who was critically shot, offering support not only to his family, but also the other officers who will have to continue facing trauma.

“I would want someone to do it for my family,” Lopez said. “That’s why I do it.”

The Peer Support Group has been around for about 15 years, but it’s only within the last couple of years that it’s become more of a priority. The department is trying to provide officers with the mental health resources they need to be healthy, happy and in the best shape to serve their community.

“Like teapots, they boil, boil, boil and what we don’t want is for it exploding at the wrong moment,” Lopez said.

The department is working with the Louisville Metro Police Foundation to create a Wellness Center, a place officers can find whatever resources they need. A big component of that is mental health providers and a path to help with symptoms of PTSD.

“What I am looking for is as many resources as possible,” Lopez said. “I want to bring an officer in and him tell me what he needs and I pull up a list and say, pick the one that’s best for you.”

During the protests, when officers needed support, a number of local mental health providers refused to help treat police. Lopez and Edelen are hopeful that won’t be the case going forward.

“Some people think we’re robots and think that we put on a uniform and we walk into a situation, and like nothing’s going to bother us, and that’s simply not the case,” Lopez said. “We are just like everyone else. We carry those thing with us.”

Edelen added officers are reaching out to the peer support group. He wishes more would.

“I am very proud of this new wellness initiative,” Edelen said. “It is OK to not be OK.”

The Wellness Center still needs much community support. If you would like to help or donate, visit SaferLouisville.org.