These are especially challenging times for first responders and their families. Thursday night’s shooting of a St. Louis County Police officer is a reminder of the dangers of police work.
“The things they see, the adrenaline, the trauma is very real,” said St. Louis Police Wives’ Association Vice President Barb O’Connor.
Cases like Thursday’s along with the shooting death of fellow county officer Blake Snyder and the shooting of Ballwin police officer Mike Flamion can have long-lasting traumatic effects on first responders and their families, even those who weren't in direct danger.
“If they don't take care of those things, it sort of acts like a volcano. It grows and grows until they get to that explosion point,” said Dr. Jean Moretto, PhD, founder of the non-profit mental health clinic Walter’s Walk in Hazelwood.
The Police Wives have partnered with Walter’s Walk to offer therapy and counseling sessions to first responders and their families, regardless of their ability to pay. Many therapists there use Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or E.M.D.R. techniques.
“Best therapy that's out there for first responders. One, two sessions and they're pretty much good to go,” said Moretto.
And counselors say it's equally important for the children of first responders.
“Kids are very sensory and they can pick up things that maybe an adult who has their plate full might not pick up on. And then when the parent comes home and they've had a bad day or they're traumatized the children soak it up,” said therapist Leslie Barry.
O'Connor says there is no shame in seeking professional help, even if it’s just to blow off some steam.
“It’s been a huge help. It’s something we do on an on-going basis, not just a one-time thing. And it makes a very big difference.”
Walter’s Walk offers services to everyone. Click here for more information on the services they provide.