Opening the Door to Open Conversations on Mental Health in Our Industry
“It’s okay to not be okay.” Truer words have never needed to be heard more than in the security sector. In an industry filled with veterans, former and current law enforcement, protectors, who feel like vulnerability would diminish their credibility, two mental health advocates are leading the charge. Janina Lincke and Scott Hooper want colleagues and friends to know it is okay to be honest about mental health struggles and they joined us in our latest podcast episode.
Janina is based in London, working as an embedded intelligence analyst for Crisis 24. She has worked for many years in close protection, is a qualified EMT, an adventurer, and has found herself in a new role, mental health advocate. Scott, is a senior program manager for At-Risk, leading an embedded team in Seattle, spent 15 years in the military, with two tours in Afghanistan and was a cop for five years.
Scott says simply put, “There are things you can’t unsee.” That is at the basis of why so many in our industry need help with mental health. According to the most updated statistics from The Department of Veteran Affairs, 6,146 veterans committed suicide in 2020.
Understanding the effects of not being able to unsee things and how stressful that can be on a human being’s mind is the first step. Recognizing symptoms of PTSD can be difficult, it takes a lot of courage and many struggle with PTSD for years before reaching out for help, if they do at all. Scott remembers what it was like before he sought treatment. “I was in a very, very dark place and I couldn’t get myself out of it. Like, really dark. I would wake up raging for no reason, just raging and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I didn’t want to talk to anybody, didn’t want to socialize. My wife called me the basement troll because I stayed in my mancave the whole time.”
Janina, a suicide survivor, explains what went through her head when she attempted to take her life. “F** it, that’s what goes through your mind. F*** this, f*** you, f*** everything, f*** the world.” “As someone with depression, you have a reduced ability to roll with the blows. There comes a point where you say I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be something to anybody. I can’t even look after myself, I can’t wash myself, feed myself, just f*** it, let’s just end it all. If you believe in reincarnation, let’s respawn in another life. Or let’s just go to heaven already or hell, and that’s an option. That’s an option for people with depression if it gets that bad.” She implores people struggling to not let it get to that point before getting help. “You don’t have to wait until you get to the point you get to suicide.” “Life is juggling glass balls. Some of them are glass and some of them plastic and glass balls. But when you’re letting too many balls drop, that’s when you need help. Not when you’re sitting in the corner with the balls broken around you.” At that point, Janina says reach out to your employer about getting treatment and time off if necessary.
It’s important to also realize “help” looks different for everyone. When Scott’s wife threatened to leave him, he knew he had to do something. Realizing conventional talk therapy alone wasn’t the right fit for him, Scott sought out something a little more unconventional, ketamine assisted therapy. “I had to go the day before, talk with the therapist about what I want to get out of session, an intention. So that is going through your mind prior to getting the IV, and the Ketamine hitting your system. You’re listening to music, blindfold on, completely dark and you’re just into the treatment itself. Thinking in your head about what your intention for today is going to be. It’s funny, go to my last session, wanted my intention to be long term healing. The ketamine kicks in and psychedelics are the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced. It will show you the problem and the solution. In my last session, it took me back to when I was 8 years old. I hadn’t thought about that, I literally took that experience, blocked it, put it in the back of my mind, hadn’t thought about it in 30 years. But the ketamine said, no, if you want long term healing, start there.”
After the six weeks of treatment, Scott said a weight was lifted and he felt like he could breathe again. His wife noticed a huge difference and that is what brought Scott to the podcast. This is the first time he’s spoken about it publicly and he wants everyone to know, there are other options for treatment. Options he wished one of his closest friends had known about before he took his life.
Janina says having these conversations, continuing to put mental health out there is the key to bringing awareness and preventing more loss. She is encouraged after a recent speech she gave at the Close Protection Conference put on by The International Protective Security Board.” Honestly that talk was difficult, but was wonderfully received.” Janina says speaking to and with groups, big or small, that can understand struggles is invaluable. She believes the security industry is ready to start to truly tackle mental health. “It’s important to look at workforce as individuals.” “The mind is an incredibly complex organism…we have to be careful with it and rely on the strength of it and our own resilience, and believe we can get through anything, even if we don’t see it in the moment. We are our greatest enemy and our own greatest cheerleader. How you show up is a decision you make every single day. One thing I live by, is the phrase you can do hard things. You can get through this, you can get through anything. You can do hard things.”
This is a fragment of what’s in the video below. They talk in depth about what they’ve experienced, different treatment options, banishing stigmas and the difference between PTSD and Complex PTSD. It’s a beautifully raw conversation and both are open to anyone who wants to reach out with questions.
Remember if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or by hitting 988 in most areas. If you specifically want the Veterans Crisis Line, dial 988 and then hit 1, you can also chat online or text 838255. We want to use Janina’s words one more time, just in case you need to hear them. “It’s okay to be not okay.”
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