The men and woman who put their lives on the line to keep us safe, see some of the worst things imaginable. Their job is to show up when there is danger, tragedy or destruction.
The job can take a toll on people’s mental health. Brenton Lucas says he is proof.
“I became a police officer a little over two years ago and almost right away started noticing the effects of the job,” he said.
Things quickly went downhill for Lucas. He said he began to isolate himself, and his family and friends saw how he was changing. Then one day, he said, he couldn’t bear it anymore.
“Kind of started compiling and becoming bigger and bigger and bigger until November 22 of last year, everything just kind of fell apart at one time and that’s the day I decided, like, I’m done. I’m going to finish my life; it’s just going to happen right now.”
Lucas recalled that day, where he put a gun to his head, ready to end his life. Luckily, someone stepped in and stopped him. That’s when his journey to healing began. He went to Chateau Recovery, where the center had specific treatment for first responders. He was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and severe anxiety, he said.
“I spent a month in this inpatient facility working through childhood trauma, adult trauma and just some of my police trauma,” he said.
During his time in treatment, he realized he wasn’t alone and that many others in this field are going through the same thing.
“I think there is kind of a misconception sometimes, because you hear people say a lot, you know, ‘you signed up for this’ which, yes, we did but we also didn’t sign up for the trauma and the nightmares and the things that come with it,” he said.
Mental health should be talked about far more often, Lucas said.
“We need to start learning to be open and honest with each other and realize it is okay to feel fear, it is okay to be sad, to be depressed. It’s normal. We see horrible things and it’s not normal to see those things, so we need to be able to just talk about them with a zero judgment,” he said.
Now back at home, Lucas and his family are hoping to add a new companion to their life with the help of Kim Mikesell, the Executive Director for Outreach Pawsawbilities Inc. (OPI). Mikesell is training Athena to be Lucas’ service dog.
She will be able to help Lucas, “And be there when he’s having an anxiety attack and just kind of know and jump in and that’s really a connection with the dog and the person,” Mikesell said.
Athena will go everywhere with Lucas, even to work. While Athena is still in training, the times the two have been together, they have already been beneficial, Lucas said.
“The first time I met her, I was having a bit of an anxiety attack and almost immediately it subsided, and I was just happy, and I was smiling and playing with her and it’s so impactful,” he said.
It’s important for the dog to pick the person, Mikesell said. That is what has happened here, she said with a smile.
“Athena had to have some drive to want to work for him, and she does. She wants to work for him,” she said.
While Athena continues to train and get ready for her new home, Lucas needs help being able to pay for the service dog. You can donate here:
Lucas and his family are looking forward to adding Athena to their family.
“She will be my PTSD dog and you can see she is very loving and that’s one of the things she will do for me is when I’m having anxiety or a really bad moment, she will get right up next to me, show we a lot of love and kind of help keep me calm," Lucas said.
Here are some resources Lucas wants other first responders and others who are struggling know about:
Survivefirst.us (844) 577-7233
Suicide hotline (800)-273-8255 press 1 for veterans line
Copline (800) 267-5463