Orange County

‘It’s OK to not be OK’: Orange County Sheriff shares experiences with PTSD after rise in law-enforcement suicides

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — One case has stuck with Sheriff John Mina.

“I remember one case that I went to, where an 11-year-old actually pointed me to the closet where her dead mother was,” Mina recalled. “An awful case.”

Dead children. Dead infants. Having to use his firearm to take someone’s life in the line of duty -- “those things will affect you,” Mina said.

Last year, more than 224 officers committed suicide nationwide. In response to the rising numbers, Mina is sharing his own experiences of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Society thinks that we have to be these robots, and these strong people, and that we can’t let things affect us,” Mina said. “Well, that’s not the way humans work."

On Monday, Mina uploaded a video on the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page called “It’s OK to not be OK." In it, he shares his own story of dealing with depression and urges fellow law-enforcement officers to seek mental help if they need it. It has already been viewed more than a million times.

It's OK to not be OK

It's OK to not be OK.

Posted by Orange County Sheriff's Office, Florida on Monday, January 6, 2020

“You can’t keep this stuff bottled up,” he told Channel 9. “You have to talk to someone.”

Mina was the police chief during the mass shooting at Pulse. He said he knew immediately it affected his officers.

“I could see by the look in their eyes that they had never seen anything like that before,” Mina said.

Read: ‘Depression is real’: Florida deputy killed 3 generations of family before taking own life

A Kevlar helmet saved Officer Michael Napolitano’s life at Pulse, but PTSD kept him off the job for more than three years.

“I was trying to do everything I could to to get back to work because that was my goal,” Napolitano said back in September. Around that same time, OPD eliminated his limited-duty position.

When asked if that may discourage others from asking for help: Mina said, “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

“I think that, in that case, he decided he couldn’t move on in law enforcement, and that’s his decision and his family’s decision,” Mina said.

Still, there are many stories that prove productive careers in law enforcement are possible after overcoming PTSD. His is one of them.

“Use me as an example,” Mina said. “I reached out, I got counseling. It didn’t affect my career.”

The Sheriff’s Office offers deputies peer-to-peer counseling in addition to anonymous counseling options through their EAP, insurance, and UCF Restores. Mina also encourages his deputies to check in on each other after difficult days and to speak up if they know their partner isn’t acting normal. “That’s a very hard conversation to have, a very uncomfortable conversation to have, but it could save someone’s life.”