A.L.L.E.A.P.S. holds 3rd annual Dothan conference on law enforcement mental health

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - At least 228 police officers committed suicide in the U.S. last year. That’s according to B.L.U.E. Help.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers from around the state gathered to talk about mental health in a demanding industry.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support was created to combat the stigma surrounding officers asking for help.

Law enforcement officers spend their days helping people, but sometimes they need help too.

After 30 years in law enforcement, David Jay says he's seen a bit of a stigma.

"Back in the old days, when I started, it was suck it up, you'll be alright,” said Alabama Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support Counselor David Jay. “You go through your career with this built up."

In 2019, 140 police officers were killed in the line of duty.

228 committed suicide.

"We've known there was law enforcement suicides, or divorce rates, or alcoholism, but nobody ever wanted to fix the problem,” said Jay. “We're trying to stop those."

After reaching out for help himself, David Jay got involved as a peer counselor for the Alabama Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support.

L.E.A.P.S. was in Dothan for the third annual conference to talk about law enforcement and mental health.

"We're trying to get the officers from across the state to break the stigma that law enforcement is the tough guy and we can handle anything,” said Jay.

The conference had presentations about subjects like "Anxiety, Stress and Burnout" and "Misconceptions about Suicide."

The Dothan Police Department lost an officer to suicide just a few years ago.

"It was just an understanding that we need to really treat the mental health of not only the officer, but bring along the support of their families."

Alabama L.E.A.P.S. is still pretty new, but Jay said the agency got 1,000 calls from officers that have reached out.

A thousand phone calls re-assuring cops they aren't alone.

Alabama L.E.A.P.S. assigns a peer support officer to each jurisdiction in the state so there's always one available to meet with an officer in distress one-on-one.