Western WI police officers learn 'It's OK not to be OK' - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Western WI police officers learn 'It's OK not to be OK'


Eau Claire (WQOW) -- As part of National Suicide Prevention Week, local law enforcement went through crisis intervention training. 

It's meant to help them when they come across someone suffering from from mental illness while on the job. On Thursday, officers got an important lesson in what to do if they are ever the ones in crisis. 

"What if it's you that's trying to address depression? Or what if it's one of your officers that needs help," mental wellness advocate Chris Prochut said to News 18. "We want to show that getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness." 

Officers from the Eau Claire Police Department, the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office, even as far away as Osseo, showed up to learn more about how to take care of themselves emotionally as a way to better serve their communities. 

"We need this ourselves, too," Sgt. Andy Wise, with the Eau Claire Police Department, said. "We need to take care of ourselves and as individuals, unless we're healthy we can't do our best for the community."

"Because you're no good to anybody else if you're not okay," Prochut agreed. 

Prochut, a former police officer, was on hand to share his story. He said after getting help for his depression, he lost his job on the force. 

"We put so much emphasis on our career and, you know, what we do for a living and it becomes who we are, our identity," he told News 18. "And then we lose that and we go 'Well, I lost everything.' You didn't lose anything, you've gained everything." 

Now, after seven years of helping other officers fighting the same battle, he knows his true calling. 

"I'm possibly saving more lives now then I could have ever done on the street, and that's what pushes me to keep doing this," Prochut said. "It's not an easy topic to talk about, it is near and dear to my heart. I'm still on the path to getting better and this certainly helps." 

The real goal of Thursday's training was to end the stigma surrounding mental illness in officers and to let them know it's okay to ask for help. 

"It used to be a suck it up attitude. Now it's an open up attitude," Prochut said,

Though organizers said that any real change in departments must start with the people on the top. 

"When the chiefs have troubles and they seek help, well the trickle down effect, well it's okay not to be okay," Prochut said. 

If you, or people you love, are struggling with mental health issues, like depression or suicidal feelings, help is just a phone call away. The number to the National Suicide Prevention Helpline is: 1-800-273-8255. Follow the link to their website for more information. 

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