Cops learn survival skills, on the job and at home

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - A life spent protecting and serving is tough and can take a toll. Suicide and divorce rates for police officers are higher than in the general population. A two day seminar at the Ocean Springs Civic Center is trying to change that.

More than 100 officers from 20 agencies spanning four states came to learn coping and survival skills, both on and off the job.

"It's like a roller coaster ride. It's ups and downs constantly throughout the day," explained Andrew Robinson, who serves as a U.S. park ranger. "When you come home, it's really hard to come down from the emotional highs and lows that you get in your job. A lot of time we deal with really sad and unfortunate situations."

Those situations sometimes follow officers home.  Karl Miller is with the D'Iberville Police Department.

"You don't want to bring work problems home to family members. They have enough stress as it is too with your job," Miller said.

There's an even more ominous threat for officers like U.S. Marshal Ray Stewart.

"It's the stress of the unknown. When you go to somebody's house, you don't know what they have in their house, what kind of weapons they have, what their mindset is, if they're having a really bad day," Stewart said.

The theme of the seminar is "The Winning Mind."

"We want them to win, and we want them to just not win in confrontations. We want them to win in the courtroom, we want them to win at the station, we want them to win at home," said police trainer Betsy Smith.

There's no doubt the men and women of law enforcement face challenges every day that most of us do not; the stresses they face are unbelievable at times. But if there was one word to come out of today's conference, it was this: Balance.

Dave Smith is another trainer.

"You've got things in your life that you do. And what I don't want those to become are your 'Used Tos.' I used to hunt, I used to fish, I used to go camping with my family because that leads to I used to be happy. I used to have a life," Smith implored.

It's a life that despite its stress, can still be fulfilling.

The two day seminar wrapped up Wednesday afternoon.  It was paid for with a grant from the Albright-Wirth program and organized by the National Park Foundation. The Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce was also involved by providing food and drinks for the officers.

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