Keisha Ross, Ph.D and Dr. Marva M. Robinson: Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Photos courtesy of Keisha Ross and Marva M. Robinson
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ESOP is seeking sponsors to offset the costs for officers and expand programming nationally
ST LOUIS, MO – The Ethical Society of Police (ESOP) Charitable Foundation is hosting a health and wellness retreat for St. Louis-area police officers on June 30 to July 3 to address the pervasive mental health issues and unique challenges commonly experienced by officers of color. In addition to the stress and trauma associated with working in law enforcement, minority officers face the compounded toll of racism, marginalization and microaggressions within their departments as well as the communities they serve. Tragically, more police officers die by suicide than they do in the line of duty, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
ESOP is seeking corporate and private sponsors to reduce the cost for each officer to attend and help expand the program, both in St. Louis and nationally, in future years. A limited number of spots are available for officers to attend. ESOP is a St. Louis-based non-profit organization and national voice that aims to act as a bridge between the community and police while working to address racial biases that impact employees and the communities they serve.
“The mental health of police officers is a matter of public safety. Therefore, it is important to provide officers with the resources they need to stay healthy and well-functioning, so that they can continue to protect our communities,” said Lt Ray Rice, ESOP Board Member.
The goal of the retreat is to provide officers with a safe space to communicate mental health challenges and develop effective coping skills and self-care tools to improve their mental health under the guidance of specialized mental health practitioners, Dr. Marva Robinson and Dr. Keisha Ross, who will facilitate and provide therapeutic support.
“Our goal is that working with Black officers at the First Responder Retreat will provide that safe space to begin healing racial trauma, and purge the chronic stress they carry while taking with them new tools to move forward,” said Dr. Ross. “Law enforcement, particularly Black officers, experience the intersection of being a part of two marginalized groups. They are a population at high risk for exposure to traumatic events related to their daily professional duties and racial trauma or race-based traumatic stress. Given this level of exposure Black officers are at much higher risk for mental health challenges, and it is paramount for Black police officers to have a safe space for them to validate their experiences and to learn adaptive coping strategies to maintain mental health,” said Dr. Ross.
According to the NAMI, police officers suffer from higher rates of depression, substance use, burnout, PTSD and anxiety than the general public. Over the course of their careers, many first responders experience multiple traumatic events, with approximately 85% experiencing symptoms related to mental health conditions. Almost 25% of police officers nation-wide have experienced suicidal ideation at least once in their lifetime yet most officers suffer in silence. An additional layer of trauma exists for Black officers who find themselves in the dual role of maintaining law and order while also being members of the community with valid criticisms of the same system and organizations they work for.
“Of all the populations I have worked with, Blacks in law enforcement are by far the most unique. They have insurmountable stress in both their personal and professional life. In their community, they deal with the daily stressors of navigating life in Black skin. In their professional life, they have encountered the stress of showing up for people under the worst circumstances — and they show up as representation of a profession that hasn’t always protected and served communities they likely come from. They carry all of that, while also operating within an institution built on white supremacy. It is an unimaginable burden for anyone to carry,” said Dr. Robinson.
Dr. Robinson is a licensed clinical psychologist and has worked with her colleagues in St. Louis Association of Black Psychologists to address the acute crisis needs of the Ferguson and greater St. Louis community. Her recent work to help address the pain of the St. Louis community led her to become a respected clinician in the field. Dr. Robinson has conducted workshops in an effort to help prepare other clinical psychologists on how to address community trauma.
Dr. Ross leads Minority Stress Resilience (MSR) Groups, working with people of color (POC), focused on treating race-based stress and trauma (RBST). She specializes in treating and understanding complex trauma; racial/ethnic diversity, religion/spirituality, inclusion and cultural competence; wellness, leadership and advocacy. Her passion is centered on decreasing the stigma around mental health with a focus on advocacy and empowerment in urban minority and underserved populations.
The St. Louis Regional Business Council and TKC Holdings are the current corporate sponsors for the event. For more information about becoming a sponsor or to register, contact Lt. Ray Rice, 2nd Vice President at vice.president@esopstlCO.org.
ABOUT THE ETHICAL SOCIETY OF POLICE (ESOP) CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
The Ethical Society of Police (ESOP) Charitable Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit and branch of the Ethical Society of Police, a police association with over 300 members. Founded in 1972 by African-American police officers to address race-based discrimination, ESOP works to cultivate and maintain police/community relations, increase diversity within police departments, and enhance accountability and professionalism in law enforcement. Today, almost every demographic is represented in our membership of commissioned and civilian employees of law enforcement agencies within St. Louis City and County. For more information, call (314) 690-3565, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.esopstl.org. Donations can be made via PayPal to president@esopSTL.org or esopstl.org/donate.
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