The Fargo Police Department and Cass County Sheriff's Office are now using an anonymous online tool to prevent law enforcement officials from dying by suicide.
Stephanie Schafer is an employee assistance counselor with the Village Family Service Center in Fargo. She says the officers can follow a link to an anonymous online screening tool that guides them to a survey of questions about anxiety, depression, substance use, traumatic experiences and other risk factors, and then gives the option of being connected to a counselor.
"I've been the counselor responding to these questionaires and letting people know that I am reading what you say, and I am taking your comments, and I am maybe saying here are some areas of concern, and here is how we can get connected. And these folks are able to continue dialogueing through the secure website, so having the conversation back and forth with the counselor, to try and see how we can reduce barriers to this person getting help that they need."
Schafer says the tool has been made available through the North Dakota chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She says the anonymity of the tool may help encourage struggling law officers to make contact.
"Seeking help for your mental health is a brave thing, it takes courage. All of us who work in mental health know that, and we see people as taking that brave step. But it's okay. It's okay that you're struggling. It's okay if you want to anonymously find what's out there, and it's okay if you want to come in person and be known."
The tool is now available four years after well known Fargo police officer took his life.