The Northern Illinois University (NIU) Board of Trustees unanimously voted Dec. 7 to extend the…
DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University has received a state grant of nearly $36,000 to train Illinois law enforcement officers about the risks of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide within their own profession.
First-responder suicides outnumber all line-of-duty deaths in the United States, according to a study by the Ruderman Family Foundation. PTSD is cited as a major contributing factor.
The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority grant will enable NIU and the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association (IPPFA) to sponsor a pair of two-day seminars on PTSD and suicide awareness and risk. A total of 80 law enforcement officers can attend the seminars free of charge.
NIU Psychology Professor Michelle Lilly, a specialist in PTSD and trauma recovery, and Peoria Police Department Sgt. Shawn Curry will present the training sessions.
“We intend to deliver a unique and powerful learning opportunity with the ultimate goal of saving blue lives,” Lilly said. “Shawn and I will provide education and skills training, so that police officers can help peers who may be struggling—or even help themselves.”
Lilly is a licensed clinical psychologist, an associate professor of clinical psychology at NIU and co-director of the Trauma Services Clinic at NIU. She has expertise in the field of traumatology, and has published extensively on risk for PTSD, depression and substance abuse following trauma. She has led, or collaborated on, multiple studies involving public safety personnel, including retired police officers and 9-1-1 telecommunicators.
Curry has a combined 22 years of law enforcement experience, with hundreds of hours of specialized training. On behalf of the IPPFA, he wrote the HB2766 First Responders Suicide Prevention Act, which would ensure confidentiality for law enforcement when seeking counseling or peer support. He has been an active advocate and lobbyist for police officers in Springfield, as well as in Washington, D.C.
The initial two seminars are planned for June 12 and 13 at NIU Hoffman Estates and June 26 and 27 at NIU Naperville. The programs will cover such topics as PTSD symptoms; conditions that are often present with PTSD, including depression and substance abuse; ways to bolster PTSD resistance; suicide prevention; and effective PTSD treatments. Attendees will also learn about and practice skills in peer support.
The IPPFA initiated the idea for the grant-funded program, provided information and support to NIU during the grant process, and will fund some parts of the program that are not covered by the grant.
“The attempted suicide rate for first responders such as police officers is more than 10 times the rate of the general public. First responders often have nowhere to turn when the trauma they deal with every day overwhelms them,” IPPFA President James McNamee said. “This training program is a major step toward saving the lives of these everyday heroes, and I hope we can successfully expand it to all areas of the state.”
The June seminars are specifically for official police personnel only. Registration is available online, and seats are limited.
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law.
About the IPPFA
The IPPFA was founded in 1985 as a not-for-profit organization whose mandate was to educate public pension fund trustees. In 2009 the IPPFA became the primary education provider for public pension fund trustees in the state of Illinois, and its members manage more than $18 billion in pension assets.