UT Health offering free mental health program to help law enforcement deal with trauma

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – After a particularly violent week against law enforcement, officers will undoubtedly be left trying to figure out how to cope with the trauma they’ve endured and return to the job.

Mental health help is important for everyone, but for this profession, in particular, it’s needed, and almost always needed in a quick, straightforward fashion.

A program offered for free through UT Health might be the solution.

UT Health has a state-sponsored program through Commissioner Adrian Garcia to offer evidence-based programs that last 12-16 weeks and will help law enforcement feel better and get back to normal.

“It’s short term, it’s focused and it’s home base telemedicine. We meet them where they’re at and that’s the type of program that appeals to first responders,” said Ron Acierno, Ph.D., professor, and executive director of the UTHealth Houston Trauma and Resilience Center, McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

Acierno said the key to most law enforcement getting help is to have encouragement from their peers.

“People in this field, who are taking care of other people, tend not to always notice the problems in themselves, but they can see when their friends or coworkers need help. So, we really want to rely on that pier model, that battle buddy model from the military,” Acierno said.

He said it may take four to five times to encourage someone to call before they actually follow through.

Signs and symptoms this program might help someone you know:

  • Irritability
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased drinking

“When you start having intrusive thoughts about things at dinner or when you start having panic attacks that don’t seem to stop or when you start snapping at your wife and kids, that might be a sign you need to talk to somebody,” Acierno said.

There’s no shame in asking for help. With this program, you don’t have to sit in a waiting room or even have something specific to talk about. All you need is to dial the phone and they’ll guide you the rest of the way.

It is free and UT doctors are available to speak with spouses and family members of first responders, too.

You can contact the Trauma and Resilience Center at 713-486-2630 or visit their website for more information.