As most of you know, the HPOU has tried to put a spotlight on the mental health of our department. Joe Gamaldi started out first Peer Support program with HOPA (Houston Officers Peer Assistance). Tim Whitaker has taken over the program in the last few years. The program has been working very well but we still have officers out there struggling. I have personally worked with 6 officers over the last two years who are dealing with either mental health issues or alcoholism issues or other addictions. The stressors of this job have obviously increased over the last few years with the civil unrest, the defund the police movement, the vilification of officers, and now the increased crime spikes and attacks on law enforcement.
With the stress of this job, we are seeing more and more alcohol related issues with our officers as we all tend to “self-medicate”. We have lost two of our brothers just this year to suicide. We all know someone who is struggling with alcohol dependence, or issues with depression. This is the time where we need to come together and lift our brothers and sisters who are in that battle. We must start being more aggressive and reaching out to our family who are struggling with these types of issues. The days of dismissing or ignoring people who are having these issues must stop. If we truly care about our friends and our brothers and sisters in blue, we must start to take action.
Too many times I have heard officers say, “it was just a matter of time” or “I did not know what to do” when someone gets arrested for DWI or gets fired for some alcohol or other related issue. We can help! We must help! Anyone struggling can reach out to HOPA at 832-200-3499, or HPD Peer support at 713-308-1230. We have been working very well with the Command staff and have been able to work out time off for those trying to get help with no complaint from the department. There should not be any reason for our members to fear anything if they want to get help. We have access to many different programs in and out of the state. Officers who need help are welcome to call me, Tim Whitaker, Ken Nealy, or any of the board members. This is about getting the help that we all need to survive our chosen career. Please know that you are not alone, we are all in this together. We are our brother’s keeper.