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Noting Nashua Police Officer's Suicide, Shaheen Calls for More Mental Health Service Support

Appleswitch via Flickr Creative Commons

Police in New Hampshire are calling for more resources to support officers who are struggling with mental health issues.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., heard from law enforcement officials and mental health advocates during a roundtable Tuesday at the Nashua Police Department.

Many police departments across the state, Nashua and Manchester included, have peer support programs for employees struggling with mental health.

But Shaheen says we need more research and support for these kinds of efforts.

“We need more resources to provide help so that the officers who are involved with helping with those mental health issues, that peer counseling, that resiliency training get the resources they need to continue that job,” Shaheen said.

Some of the ideas brought forward by police and mental health experts include a more centralized, state-level approach to peer mental health counseling across departments.

"We need to be able to acknowledge that mental health issues are critical to how we as law enforcement do our job," Nashua Police Chief Michael Carignan says.

The roundtable discussion follows the death of Nashua Police Capt. Jonathan Lehto who died by suicide in September.

Nashua Police Chief Michael Carignan says it’s important to talk about what happened so the public can be aware of what officers face and how it affects their mental health.

“Such a successful person and officer had to go through that trauma without anybody knowing was very difficult for us to handle,” Carignan said.

Carignan says state officials and leaders of law enforcement agencies need to continue the conversation about how to better support first responders.

“We need to be able to acknowledge that mental health issues are critical to how we as law enforcement do our job and how we treat the public and deal with the public in an effective and safe way,” Carignan said.

Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR.

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