State program seeks to get help for police officers contemplating suicide

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A new state program is seeking to get help for police officers who are contemplating suicide.

Nearly 40 law enforcement officers across the state have died due to suicide over the past three years. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says that he is trying to reduce those numbers, starting with a resiliency summit for officers in Trenton.

Grewal says that the idea for the program came after the death of Officer Pablo Santiago, a Mercer County sheriff officer who took his own life at a government building just after Christmas.

“That was a wakeup call for me, that this is an issue out there. I knew about it. I read about other places, but I didn't want to come into another holiday season without doing anything and that's why we're here today,” Grewal says.

RELATED: NYPD suicides highlight need for mental health assistance for officers 

The program mandates that officers in every department be trained to help fellow law enforcement officers cope with emotional and mental stress. Officials say that they also want to lessen the stigma of officers seeking help.

“The biggest hurdle is really an officer coming forward and saying, ‘I'm in trouble and I need help,’” says Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina. “They fear they're going to lose their gun. They fear they're going to lose their badge, lose their career and we want to change that mindset.”

The program is the first of its kind in the country, according to the New Jersey attorney general.

Officials say that they want to change the perception and make seeking help seen as a strength rather than a weakness.

Gov. Phil Murphy declared Thursday New Jersey Law Enforcement Resiliency Day in recognition of the summit.

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