Removing police stigma of seeking PTSD help - New York News

Maple Grove cop hopes to remove police stigma of seeking PTSD help

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Officer Mike Helman Officer Mike Helman
MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (KMSP) -

A Maple Grove police officer is still recovering from the effects of a concussion ten months after fighting with a suspect who knocked him unconscious.

Officer Mike Helman still suffers from frequent headaches and has trouble with his speech and concentration. But the most difficult part of his recovery has been dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder -- something he knows many officers struggle with, but refuse to get help because of the stigma.

Helman hopes his story can help others before it's too late.

Just a few weeks before last Christmas, Officer Helman was called to the Maple Grove Bed Bath and Beyond, where an 18-year-old had become hostile and refused to leave the store. When a Taser did little to stop the man's erratic behavior, it got physical.

"He got my jacket, "Helman said. "Kind of like a hockey move. You see them pulling the jersey over."

Helman suffered a traumatic brain injury, but refused to see a doctor. Like many cops, he saw it as a sign of weakness.

"Everybody kept telling me to just go to the hospital, and I said no, I'm fine," Helman said. "And then they told me to go back to the police department. I couldn't find my car, I couldn't find my keys."

But the hardest part was admitting he needed psychological help for post-traumatic stress.

"It's not just from this one event," Helman said. "I've seen many traumatic things in my career that I was just told to put away with a lock and key."

At first he turned down any kind of fundraising. Now on leave from the department, friends and colleagues hosted a benefit to help with his medical bills and rehabilitation.

"I would say probably within the past ten years, we've really become more aware of the effects of PTSD, traumatic incidents, and the impact that it has on the lives of the officers," said Maple Grove Police Chief David Jess. "But more than that, it's the lives of the families."

The response was so overwhelming that more than 100 people were turned away from the benefit poker tournament. Helman is using the unwanted attention to raise awareness among others in law enforcement that it's okay to talk to someone about the stress of the job.

"A year ago, I would have considered if an officer had to seek psychological help it was a weakness," Helman said. "And I fought the system hard, and it took several attempts to break the shell for me. Don't be afraid to go seek help before it wrecks your career or your family. Or your life."

It has been a long, difficult road for Helman, his wife and their three kids. And it's still not clear if Helman will ever be able to come back to work.

Sunday's benefit was expected to raise more than $30,000.

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