LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A special panel held at The Mob Museum Thursday night touched on the importance of mental health among law enforcement in our community.
Several current and retired police officers joined a psychotherapist to discuss the impact of trauma and the overall importance of treatment for those on the front lines.
“Every time I come up on that part of the year,” Nevada State Police Highway Patrol Sergeant Travis Smaka recalled. “The thoughts come back up.”
Sergeant Smaka shared with 8 News Now the struggles he still faces after responding to the One October shooting in 2017.
“People are losing their lives over mental health,” Sergeant Smaka said of his profession.
He is one of several who participated in Thursday’s panel, which touched on the mental and emotional challenges law enforcement officers in Las Vegas face every day.
“We have to change this macho stoicism that we’ve always had,” Sergeant Smaka added. “Where we keep these things buried.”
Suicide rates, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse were all discussed as side effects of the death and destruction officers see every day.
“If people can have an awareness of the symptoms,” Doctor Trudy Gilbert-Eliot said.
Dr. Gilbert-Eliot works as a counselor for Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Employee Assistance Program. She told 8 News Now many times, PTSD symptoms can present themselves differently than people may expect.
She also cited the disorder as highly treatable when addressed.
“Over the course of many many years of being exposed to trauma after trauma after trauma,” she explained. “Their brain begins to tire in that process.”
Therefore, she and others who attended Thursday encourages first responders to ask for help when they need it, no matter how hard things may seem.
“As long as you get the treatment you need,” Sergeant Smaka said. “You can still be very successful.”
Law enforcement officers also touched on Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill’s effort to create a wellness bureau to care for Metro Police officers suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues.