ADRS Lakeshore staff provide training to Vestavia Hills first responders

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A successful 2018 training session for the Vestavia Hills Police Department through the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services continued Thursday, March 28, and Friday, March 29, with a new topic concerning suicide prevention and mental health.

Last year, ADRS Rehabilitation Specialist Samantha Wadsworth worked with officers and first responders at the VHPD to help them identify and understand typical behaviors seen in persons with a broad range of disabilities. This year’s event focused on the impact of suicides and mental illness both in the field and among members of the department.

Following the 2017 suicide of an officer, VHPD Sgt. Eddie Crim said the department’s leadership discussed the need to address the toll certain calls can have on officers.

The tragic events witnessed on the job can build up over time, Wadsworth said. Unfortunately, many are reluctant to seek assistance.

“There is a stigma about being a first responder and being tough or never showing a sign of weakness, so there is also a stigma about getting help if the trauma is getting to them,” she said. “We are hoping to help them get past that.”

Dealing with traumatic events can create a sort of mental scar tissue over time, Crim said.

“We do take it home with us a lot of times,” he said. “You see these situations like suicides and can think about what a shame it is and – for lack of a better term – develop a form of post-traumatic stress disorder from seeing all this.”

The half-day training focused on the programs and materials available for support and the proper steps for getting help.

In addition, officers learned how to better approach family members who have endured the suicide of a loved one.

Crim said officers are trained to gather information and details when they respond to suicides and try not to become emotionally involved. He said they examined how to shift gears when dealing with family members so that they can offer comfort.

“They discussed how to speak to someone and how to be a little kinder and gentler,” he said. “This will help officers better understand and be a little more sensitive to those situations.”

Other information included how to react to suicide calls and approach a person who is threatening suicide.

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