Here’s what Mental Health for Heroes can do for Pinellas first responders


Law enforcement can offer great salaries and benefits, but to hire and retain the best of the best, those who care for the community need to know that the community cares about them. This includes caring about their emotional and psychological well-being as well as their physical well-being.

A trend we have seen over the past few years is that most officers who leave our services do not go on to work in other law enforcement agencies. They come from law enforcement.

Bob Gualtieri [ Provided ]

Many of them cite work stress. Stressors are not just what agents face on calls, but what work brings into their personal lives.

When law enforcement officials talk about hiring and retention, officer welfare is at the top of the list. We need to take care of the people doing the work so they can take care of us, because the work impacts their emotional health. First responders take care of everyone’s daily crisis, but they also need help with issues in their personal and professional lives.

Agencies traditionally provide mental health services through employee assistance programs, but they are woefully underutilized. There is a stigma that first responders in a crisis are weak if they ask for help. Traditionally, in agency culture, first responders are those who help others, not those who need help.

Cops, firefighters and emergency medical service professionals fear it could negatively affect their careers if they know they are getting help for mental health issues. We’re trying to get the message across that it’s not true; it’s okay to disagree, and getting help is encouraged and won’t hurt your career.

Another challenge with traditional services is that providers don’t have a relationship with first responders, the kind of relationship that would put those seeking help at ease.

In our discussions of officer welfare, two things stand out. Services should be provided by mental health professionals who are former first responders or have specialized training, as first responders will identify with those who are like or understand them. And access to services anonymously is essential for people seeking help.

Earlier this year we created Mental Health for Heroes, and on Wednesday we announced the official launch of the organization and its services. It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing funding for free, anonymous, and specialized mental health services to the Pinellas County first responder community.

Mental Health for Heroes (HEROES) already provides services to more than 50 current members of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. It is funded by some grants, but the main funding comes – and must continue to come – from the community. There is no more important service the government provides than keeping the community safe, and to do that effectively we need to take care of the people who do it on the front lines every day.

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Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri serves as Vice President of Mental Health for Heroes (HEROES), a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to providing services to law enforcement, firefighters and paramedics in the county. of Pinellas.


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