Pasco Sheriff’s Office unveils app to help stress

Pasco Sgt. Matt Rosenbloom has handled countless distressing calls throughout his 12 years in law enforcement.

“I’ve seen things that people shouldn’t see out there,” he said.

Sometimes it takes several days for him to get past a particular incident. Witnessing the death of a child, for instance, takes a heavy toll.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said post-traumatic stress is a ‘hidden secret’ in the law enforcement community. Along with the app, the Sheriff’s Office is working on several different projects to address the issue from both the member and the family side, which includes available training regarding emotional survival and coping techniques.
(Kevin Weiss)

It’s something many deputies aren’t mentally prepared for emotionally, the sergeant said.

“We’re trained to deal with the physical dangers and to anticipate knowing that there’s those physical dangers,” Rosenbloom said. “What we are not often aware of are the long-term emotional health dangers that come along with the job.”

To help its members cope with those psychological scars, the law enforcement agency has developed a new smartphone app called Pasco Sheriff’s Office PTS (Post-Traumatic Stress).

The app offers resources, including mental health tools and videos for those who may be suffering from post-traumatic stress.

The app features a stress assessment questionnaire and also provides contact information to those who can provide help, including community partners such as BayCare and the University of South Florida. Other crisis resources include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the National Law Enforcement Officers Hotline.

The tool was developed in-house with help from some outside contractors, as part of a $150,000 pilot program related to post traumatic stress in law enforcement and ways to address the issue.

The funding was included in last year’s state budget that was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, after Rep. Danny Burgess and Sen. Wilton Simpson submitted a budget request on behalf of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

Along with the app, funding has been spent on several different projects to address the issue from both the member and the family side, including offering training for its members and their families regarding emotional survival and coping techniques.

At a March 15 media conference, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said post-traumatic stress is a “hidden secret” and “never really been spoken about” among law enforcement circles.

He said the disorder has led to broken families, alcoholism and other problems among deputies, because the issue wasn’t addressed head-on.

The current, sometimes volatile climate for law enforcement doesn’t help matters, Nocco said. This year, so far, more than 30 officers nationwide have been killed in the line of duty.

The sheriff elaborated: “For a law enforcement deputy…you’re going from one person’s worst moment of their life, continuous all day long and then you go home. “We’re called upon during people’s worst times, and then what’s going on more and more in society is — no matter what we do, it is never good enough.

“I can tell you that is overwhelmingly stressing our members now that they know no matter what decisions they make, it’s going to be second-guessed the following day,” he said.

Pasco Sheriff PTS is now available through the Google Play store and soon will be in the Apple store.

Rosenbloom said he has already utilized the tool on a few occasions and has found it helpful.

An app that’s easily accessible
“The quick access is great because I would say for some deputies that immediately after the incident that adrenaline dumps, and now all of a sudden they’re experiencing these feelings.

“They could go on the app right then and there, or it may come days later, where they may start reliving that experience and saying, ‘Is this normal?’ and go back on the app,” Rosenbloom said.

Meanwhile, it provides “a good foundation” for deputies unfamiliar with post-traumatic stress and its effects, Rosenbloom added.

“There may be newer officers…who are not sure whether they’re feeling the right thing or whether they should still be feeling what they’re feeling after a critical incident.

“This app breaks it down, asks questions and, in the end, it gives you an assessment of whether what you’re feeling is correct or not,” Rosenbloom explained.

The app is also meant for deputies’ families. Rosenbloom’s wife, Lena, has utilized the app to access support for herself and her children.

“You need just a couple of taps to get you help,” Lena said, noting its user-friendly capabilities.

“When you’re in a crisis, the last thing you want to do is try and find a phone number, pull out a card and (find) the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) number,” she said.

While mainly geared toward law enforcement and their families, the sheriff encourages anyone to use the tool, if he or she needs guidance or help.

The sheriff specifically mentioned the tool’s usefulness for other first responders, such as firefighters, as well as teenagers, parents and teachers.

“We want everybody to go on here and use this,” Nocco said. “We want to make sure they see it’s available, because the intent when we asked this of the Legislature was to say, ‘Look, we’re going to build it, we’ll develop it, but at the same time, it’s not solely for the Pasco Sheriff’s Office. It’s going to be used for everybody.’”

The Sheriff’s Office will not use the app to collect data or information on users, Nocco said.

The app also will be updated continuously as new strategies come along in dealing with post-traumatic stress.

The goal is to provide assistance in time of need, Nocco said.

“Everybody feels like they’re swimming out at sea, and there’s nobody to help them; here’s another life preserver that we’re throwing out there, to help them get help, to make them feel better and to realize that they’re not alone,” Nocco said.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.

Symptoms of PTSD:

  • Reliving the event, or having flashbacks in bad memories or nightmares
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Having contant negative beliefs and feelings, such as guilt and shame, or feeling the world is dangerous and can’t trust anyone
  • Feeling overly jittery and alert, and always on the lookout for danger

People with PTSD may also experience other problems. These include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Drinking or drug problems
  • Physical symptoms or chronic pain
  • Employment problems
  • Relationship problems, including divorce

–Information from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ National Center for PTSD

Published March 21, 2018

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