OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – After yet another police suicide in Central Florida, deputies have come up with a solution: the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office has finally hired a full-time in-house mental health expert.
Until this year, the department never had one.
Capt. Fred Hinderman grew up with the deputy who took his own life last year.
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“He struggled with his own things going on, and I never would have thought he would have taken his own life,” Hinderman said. “I was working, and they called me, and I just had to pull over. I really didn’t know how to process it.”
Like much of the sheriff’s office’s staff, Hinderman was devastated.
“At that point, there was no one here at the sheriff’s office to help,” Hinderman said. “Nothing against our agency or any other agency, but as a culture, we’ve frowned upon someone saying, ‘I need help.’ I was afraid I was going to get fired.”
That’s when Sheriff Marcos Lopez understood that hiring a full-time mental health specialist became a life-saving priority. He hired former NYPD officer Nancy Rosado as his in-house mental health supervisor.
Rosado said the need for a mental health specialist inside police departments and Sheriff’s Offices are greater than ever.
“Absolutely,” Rosado said. “As events unfold today, it’s so different than in the past. You never thought a police department would be dealing with the magnitude of a September 11th or one of these mass-shootings incidents. The No. 1 reason police officers commit suicide is because of their personal relationships outside the job.”
Rosado survived 9/11 in New York while working for the NYPD. She said she was outside the World Trade Center and ran as the first tower started to collapse. That’s why she can relate, she said, and why, often, there’s a line outside her office.
“They will talk,” Rosado said. “People think cops don’t talk about things, but yeah, they do. If they find the person they’re speaking to is compassionate and competent to deal with them, yeah, they will talk.”
Hinderman said that as a SWAT officer, he’s had to take three lives.
“Long-term, I told myself for years I was okay,” Hinderman said. “Told my family I was okay. In about 2018, I had an argument with my wife, and she basically told me leave or go to counseling. There was something wrong.”
Capt. Hinderman was one of the first at the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office to seek out Rosado and one of the first chosen by Rosado to become a peer counselor - a fellow deputy trained to be an additional set of eyes and ears for Rosado. There are now 15 peer counselors at the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and more to come.
“We’re getting results,” Hinderman said. “It’s changing the culture within the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office to make it more acceptable to ask for help.”
Rosado said changing the culture will save the lives of other deputies.
“This doesn’t hurt you, this doesn’t hurt your career,” Rosado said. “On the contrary it keeps you safe from behaviors that could cost you your career later on. I can’t identify one uncomfortable situation or something that you’d be concerned about a deputy’s actions out there later on because of their exposure to what they deal with on daily basis.”
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