Mental illness is very common and can affect anyone at any point in their lives. In particular, those who have served in combat in the Armed Forces are more likely to exhibit signs of depression and anxiety later in life, according to a report from Science Daily.
Veterans and their families often need support, whether that’s a friend or a family member who can talk to them on a personal level, or a clinical treatment in a healthcare setting.
Unfortunately, too many of our veterans are not receiving the help they need. This may be because a veteran doesn’t, for whatever reason, choose to seek help. It may also be because a veteran is overlooked when they ask for support.
In the worst of circumstances, an Army veteran may reach the position where they feel they want to hurt themselves or end their lives. In this case, medical intervention is essential to help a veteran to overcome his or her past trauma.
But talking a veteran out of doing something drastic isn’t always easy.
Officer Wesley Cook knows this all too well. He was recently faced with a very difficult situation: a disabled veteran was holding a knife to his throat, and Officer Cook needed to save him before it was too late.
When Officer Cook, of Orlando Police Department, arrived on the scene, he found the man sitting in shelter underneath the stairwell of a public building. In Officer Cook’s body cam footage, the man can be heard telling police officers to kill him, or he would do it himself.
Officer Cook knew that he had to reach out to the man in a way that would open the door to communication. Speaking in an interview with the press, he said:
“At first, he wasn’t talking to me, so I didn’t really know what he was thinking about. So I just used any approach I can to try and get through to him.”
It was when Officer Cook discovered that the man was a veteran that he had a better idea of how to encourage the man to put the knife down. Being a military veteran himself, Officer Cook was able to speak to the man in a way that he would be able to relate to.
In the video footage, Officer Cook can be heard saying:
“Put it down, Sarge. That’s the mission is to put your knife down. Put the knife down, Sarge, focus on that mission. Put it down, put it down on the ground. You know that’s your mission Sarge. Put it down.”
Though the video footage that has been released is only short, the whole interaction actually took two hours. Officer Cook, who is a member of the crisis negotiations team, is used to spending many hours with people in need until he is able to convince them not to end their lives.
Officer Cook eventually managed to convince the man to put the knife down. He and his fellow police officers approached the man and offered him a cigarette.
The veteran was then taken into custody under the Baker Act, which allows for emergency mental health services and temporary detention for people who are impaired because of a mental illness. During this time, the man will have undergone examination and been offered treatment to help him to get back on the right path.
If Officer Cook hadn’t been on the scene, it could have been a very different outcome.
At a special awards ceremony for the Orlando Police Department, Officer Cook was recognised for his actions a couple of months later. He was honoured with the Award of Commendation.
Police Chief Orlando Rolon, who attended the awards ceremony, had words of praise and positivity to say about Cook.
“With him and his skills, as far as a military member, a member of the armed forces, was instrumental during this incident to be able to bring that individual back from a situation that he probably thought he had only one thing in mind which was to hurt himself and he was able to save him.”
Officer Cook remained humble, saying that this was his job, and he felt glad that he could help a fellow veteran.
“As long as everybody goes home safe at the end of the day and I’m able to help somebody, that’s all that matters.”
Police officers like Cook are truly heroes in our society. They face incredibly tough situations where they are quite literally tasked with saving a life. Thanks to Officer Cook, this Army veteran has survived, and can now access the support he needs.
You can watch Cook’s interaction with the veteran in the video below.
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