Chicago Police Dept. Launches Two-Day Mental Health Summit

Mike Krauser
June 12, 2019 - 1:31 pm

Mike Krauser

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO)— About 100 mental health professionals and police officers gathered Wednesday at the United Club at Soldier Field for the inaugural Officer Wellness Summit that aims to address stressors Chicago police officers face on the job. 

The Chicago Police Department teamed with the University of Chicago Crime Lab to showcase the two-day mental health summit, held Wednesday and Thursday, following the suicide deaths of seven officers over the past year. 

“A stigma still remains for those who seek mental health services in the general public and law enforcement is no different," said Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, explaining that seeking help is often wrongly considered a sign of weakness. “We have such a macho profession that it’s difficult sometimes for them to reach out for help because it’s seen sometimes in the general public as a sign of weakness. But it’s actually a sign of strength for you to do that.” 

Johnson said there are no easy answers, but that's the biggest hurdle.  

“We just have to normalize seeking help so they won’t feel stigmatized or embarrassed,” he said.

Johnson told his own story about seeking help to an audience at the event. 

"That night that I called, my mind felt cloudy and that’s what precipitated me to call for assistance. I pulled over to the side of the road, called EAP and talked to a clinician for about two hours. And I have to tell you all, after that conversation, I felt like an anchor had been taken off my shoulders. I needed to unpack what I was feeling,” he shared. 

Johnson said the department doubled the number of mental health clinicians to 12 last month.  He said he'd like to see them assigned to different units and be out in the field getting to know officers on a personal level, believing that might make them feel more open to talking to them should they feel the need.  

“We have to take away every excuse for police officers not to seek help,” Johnson said.