The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has released a guide to help police departments support emotional resiliency for first-responders and others in mass casualty situations.
NAMI developed the guide at the request of the DOJ and Chief Michael Kehoe of the Newtown, Conn., police department, following the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in 2012. It features best practices for safeguarding mental health of first responders in the early moments of critical events and during the long aftermath.
Practical advice addresses topics that should not be overlooked, such as misdirected anger and trauma triggers in normal daily operations of law enforcement. For example, after the Sandy Hook tragedy, a plan was created with a mental health professional to help officers participating in routine certification activities at a shooting range because the smell of gunpowder was considered a possible trauma trigger for them.
Police officials and mental health professionals involved in the guide's development emphasize that the likelihood of a mass casualty event in any community is low, but preparation is essential.