NIU receives grant to train police on mental health risks

DEKALB, Ill (WIFR) -- "It's time we give back and really save blue lives," says Northern Illinois University associate professor of clinical psychology Michelle Lilly. "It's just really important to remember that most people run away from danger... they're running toward danger to protect all of us."

Police officers die more by suicide than in the line of duty according to a study by the Ruderman Family Foundation. They are two to three times more likely to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than the general public.

Lilly says this is not only because of the traumatic things they are exposed to, but also because of how often they are exposed. "Police officers are just recurrently exposed to potentially traumatic events," she says. I've ever met or have ever heard of [an officer] that hasn't had at least one kind of critical incident in their career."

NIU police commander Don Rodman agrees. "Police have that repuation to where we were invisible," he says. "Now we are realizing that we do see a lot of different things that we're exposed to that we need to be able to talk about."

The program will allow law enforcement to talk about their experinces, learn more about PTSD and mental health and teach them mechanisms to show support for others struggling in their departments.

Both training sessions are full, but NIU applied for additional grants in hopes of extending the program.