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The Badge of Life

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Episode No. 46 The Badge of Life
Date:  February 13, 2009

Notes: Sergeant Andy O’Hara, California Highway Patrol (ret.), Executive Director of The Badge of Life.

About the Badge of Life
According to The Badge of Life, they “are a group of active and retired police officers from the United States and Canada who are victims of trauma-related injuries from our law enforcement service. We have suffered the worst that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) brings—the hopelessness, the despair, the flashbacks, the attempts at suicide, the nightmares and insomnia, the panicky hypervigilence, anxiety and terror. Among us are victims of both critical incident and cumulative PTSD.

Our personal experiences are varied and representative of what occurs in police work—shootings, violent attacks, the loss of fellow officers, near-death experiences, helplessly watching the death of a child, and more. We were drawn together out of a determination to help others avoid our fate. With the help of experts in the field like John Violanti, PhD (author of Police Suicide, Epidemic in Blue and Under the Blue Shadow), Dr. Janak Mehtani, an expert on PTSD and Catherine Leon, LCSW, who has worked extensively with PTSD and law enforcement, we began to set a path.

We found that many departments still lack adequate suicide prevention programs. We found many departments have excellent programs—but limit themselves to suicide awareness and prevention. Our program came after long discussion and research--and the realization that, in the search for complex answers, we were all missing the simple solutions! Thus came about the Badge of Life program--a common sense approach to law enforcement stress and trauma that stunned even us by its utter simplicity. 

About the Guest

Sergeant Andy O'Hara, California Highway Patrol (ret.) is a military veteran and the Executive Director of The Badge of Life.  According to Sergeant O’Hara, he “spent his last day of law enforcement sitting on the bedroom floor with his gun, trying to decide whether to shoot himself in the mouth or side of the head.  Hospitalized twice with the effects of his post traumatic stress, he has written on this topic and spoken to numerous groups about the importance of this new program.  Through those presentations, he has realized how well received and effective the message truly is.   He is a member of the California Peer Support Association, the International Police Association and works as a peer volunteer with the West Coast Post-Trauma Retreat.

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