TAMARAC. FLA. (WSVN) - Some members of law enforcement have access to a new resource to help them cope with the demands of their job.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office has created a space for deputies to relax and regroup after a stressful call.
The Zen Den is the latest initiative from the City of Tamarac to help Broward deputies deal with the kind of burn out that can take a mental toll in the long run.
“First responders are more likely to suffer from depression and PTSD than the average person,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office Maj. Aimee Russo.
The room acts as a kind of refuge for employees from the rigors of their increasingly stressful job.
“The last couple of years have been probably peak stress for not only the community but for also first responders, and so this is our commitment to our staff, to show them that we value their overall well-being,” said Russo.
“These deputies go four days, on 12 hours shifts, going from stressful call to stressful call,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jeff Cirminiello.
Deputies can unstrap their equipment, sit down, take a few minutes to re-center and relax to practice the art of mindfulness. It’s something that hasn’t been part of policing culture until just recently.
“So by nature, cops probably aren’t the first people to talk about their feelings, but this is really important for them to come in here and just take those few moments,” said Russo.
“The importance of giving everybody permission to do so by creating this space is a reminder that self-care is paramount,” said Kathleen Gunn, city manager of Tamarac. “Police officers regularly take care of their physical health. There’s a gym on premises that they’re expected to utilize, and this is just telling everybody your mental health is just as important.”
It’s important that they do take care of their mental health.
“On average, first responders will witness 180 critical incidents over their career, the average person, two to three,” said Russo.
When they’re calm, they can better deal with the tense situations that come with the job.
“Mindfulness and deescalation work hand in hand with each other. A calm deputy is ready to deescalate,” said Cirminiello.
City managers also said the Zen Den has received such an amazing amount of positive feedback from the deputies, and it’s something she’d like to expand to city employees as well.
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