THE #WALKTHEBRIDGE MOVEMENT
Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) has been a silent killer among our Law Enforcement community for many years. It affects many of our current and retired officers. They quietly battle the daily traumas they have witnessed throughout their careers.
Many cops hide this injury well, with fake smiles and dark humor, but the facts remain, they are hurting inside!
The mental health stigma associated with PTSI has caused many officers to be reluctant to seek help within their departments. They also have very little trust in outside programs that offer them help. This is associated with the fear they will be exposed through medical reviews, insurance claims or prescription drugs which may be prescribed to them by a psychologist.
In many cases, Officers look to an alternative or hidden treatments and begin to self-medicate. They turn to pills or alcohol in order to deal with these stresses and ease some of the pain. This only leads to more addictive issues, causing the officer to slip further into a depression.
I have read many articles regarding Police suicides and in most cases, the article will say it was caused by domestic, financial or alcohol related issues.
The truth is, cops could handle the mental stress of each one of the aforementioned. That capability becomes compromised when PTSI is also a factor in their life. PTSI can dramatically impact their way of thinking and their ability to handle these common day-to-day issues.
The end result leads to mental stress overload, which can cause the officer to give up the fight and end his battle. The pain becomes too much and leads him/or her to think that suicide is the only way out.
When an Officer completes suicide, their family is left behind to carry the stigma of a ‘Mental Health Suicide.’ Too often, suicide is not recognized by the officer’s department as a line-of-duty death.
In most cases, policy and procedure restricts the department from giving a law enforcement type funeral. Worse, families may be ineligible for insurance benefits along with other much-needed department benefits. The department’s view of these heroes is focused on how they died rather than how they lived.
Post-traumatic Stress Injury is like any other injury sustained on the job and should be treated the same. Example: if an officer gets shot and lives for 20 years, but later dies due to complications of that gunshot wound, it is considered a line-of-duty death. All departmental benefits associated with their death is afforded to the family.
We need to change that, we need to be loud enough so that we are heard. Today, we are just at the beginning of that process.
In October of 2018, The Third Watch Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club located in Rowlett, Texas began a movement called #Walkthebridge. It was created to help raise awareness and bring change to the issues associated with Law Enforcement Suicide.
We need to let the families of these officers know, we will not forget the sacrifice their loved ones have made. Most important: they are not alone.
We began by walking the Highway 66 Bridge, which connects the cities of Rockwall and Rowlett in Texas. On the 22nd of each month we walk a mile out and a mile back.
This movement has grown in support from around the country. Officers who have walked the bridge feel a sense of safety in the company of other cops. They have the ability to discuss with peers, friends and others some of the issues they have battled relating to PTSI. This verbal outlet during the forty minute walk has successfully saved the lives of at least four individuals who had given up all hope.
As the movement continued each month, more First Responders and Veterans began to walk with us. Our voices were being heard around the state of Texas. Local politicians got involved and wanted to learn more about PTSI and how they could help save lives.
We soon realized, Highway 66 was not just a bridge anymore. It had become a symbol where Heroes can come together and help one other heal. It became a place where families can remember, reflect and join other families. Together, they know they are not alone.
The #Walkthebridge movement has gained tremendous support from:
- The Rockwall and Rowlett communities
- The Veterans Resource and Outreach Center (VROC)
- Blue H.E.L.P. Organization
As a result, we decided to rename the Highway 66 Bridge to “HEROES BRIDGE” in honor of those lost to Suicide from PTSI.
In July of 2020, Senator Bob Hall and Congresswomen Rhetta Bowers helped push a written resolution to officially rename the bridge. It passed unanimously by both counties and will be presented to Congress in January, 2021.
On September 26th, 2020 we will come together at 9AM at Highway 66 to join hands in unity and remembrance and unveil the new “HEROES BRIDGE.”
Stay Well and Safe, John Salerno, NYPD Detective (ret)
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
Please visit www.walkthebridge.com for more information.
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To our BROTHERS and SISTERS in BLUE: We have now arrived at the time in the ELECTION SEASON when each of us MUST pay close attention to what candidates are saying. Every person we elect in November can affect our lives as cops. Will we THRIVE, just get by or will we DIE?
- Consider the disaster created in New York by Mayor Bill DiBlasio.
- Look at the number of cops who have been critically injured by the Portland District Attorney, Mike Schmidt.
- We cannot ignore how cops have been blamed for the problems in places like Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Baltimore and other cities where civilization has damned near crumbled.
- Don’t think that school boards are immune. Last Saturday, Steven Lysenko of Spencerport High School, went on a tirade against police officers for targeting protesters in Rochester by yelling, “Fuck the Police!”
- Last, but most important, is the top job: the Presidency. Electing Joe Biden would have a horribly deep, permanent and (in some cases) fatal effect on every cop in the nation.
EVERY ONE OF US MUST PAY ATTENTION AND GET INVOLVED.
OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT.
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