Law enforcement peer group meets in Dothan hoping to help others
A few years ago, Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza's fellow officer took his life. Valenza often wonders if he could have done something to prevent the tragedy.
That prompted him to to organize seminars that help law enforcement officers cope with job related stress.
Alabama Fire Marshal's Office Investigator Jason Clifton attended his fourth seminar in Dothan Tuesday.
“It's a life changer to know you're not alone and you don't have to keep it bottled up inside because, if you keep things bottled up inside, you'll create a bomb that will explode,” Clifton said.
In 2017, more officers nationwide died from suicide than in the line of duty,” according to the website officer.com. Statistics show 140 police officers and 103 firefighters committed suicide.
Making the figures more disturbing, the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliances estimates only about 40 percent of firefighter suicides are reported.
Alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, and emotional distress are not uncommon among first responders. They routinely witness tragedy and sometimes have trouble shaking memories.
While professional help is often needed, support from others is also vital. “You need to be able to confide in your peers and be able to relieve stress,” Clifton told WTVY.
This year's Alabama Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support seminar came only days after a former Samson, Alabama police officer killed his wife then took his own life. He had recently resigned his job.