MONTICELLO, Ind. (WLFI) - A Monticello police officer is putting his mental health crisis training to good use in his community. Captain Tony Stroup with the Monticello Police Department is now a certified Crisis Intervention Specialist. He graduated from the Mental Health America program in September.
"I've lived here all my life and so to bring that to Monticello," he said. "It doesn't strengthen me as much as it does this community."
He said he and four other Monticello officers received Crisis Intervention Team training a few years ago, which is training specifically for law enforcement. Tenecia Waddell-Pyle from MHA led the course, which teaches trainees how to provide crisis intervention, suicide prevention and emotional support.
"It really allows them to build that empathy and build that rapport in an empowering way to really connect with that person," she said.
Capt. Stroup said about 80% of the calls they receive are related to a mental health crisis in some degree, and this training gives him more tools to help those in need. Waddell-Pyle worked for 15 years in law enforcement before working at MHA, half as a corrections officer and half as a police officer. She said there are other crucial reasons for first responders to know the signs.
"This training is phenomenal for officers not only to help in the community, but also to help other officers," she said.
"Being a captain on the police department, obviously I have guys that I need to look out for too," said Stroup. "They may be giving me signs and I wouldn't pick up on those if I didn't have training like this."
Bluehelp.org is a non-profit that fights stigma surrounding mental health in law enforcement. It reports that 2018 was the third straight year that police officer suicide deaths outnumbered line-of-duty deaths.
"Just from being in that law enforcement community, which I understand and know, is that you really don't want to reach out for help or you want to reach within your own circle for help," said Waddell-Pyle. "So the more officers we have trained, the more they're able to connect with their fellow officers."
Capt. Stroup said a lot of times, people just need someone to talk to. He said he has learned that there doesn't always have to be a resolution right away, and that he can help people work through their problems over time. He wants people know that he is there to listen and help.
"Being able to let them know that it's okay to talk and that we're here for them," he said. "Not every interaction with a police officer has to be a bad one."
Waddell-Pyle says MHA has three Crisis Intervention Specialist trainings each year. The next will be in February of 2020. Click here to learn more.