Documentary Film on PTSD in Police/First Responders

Article Posted -- October 5, 2016

code9Wednesday, November 9
7:00-9:00 p.m, Performing Arts Center.

The Sussex County affiliate of NAMI NJ (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and Sussex County Community College (SCCC) and their Criminal Justice/Fire Science Technology Department are partnering to present the documentary film, “Code 9, Officer Needs Assistance” free of charge at the Performing Arts Center, One College Hill Road, Newton NJ on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 from 7:00-9:00 p.m.

The film spotlights PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) among police and first responders, which is a major challenge, though vastly overlooked and slow to be acknowledged.

The lives of filmmaker Deborah Louise Ortiz and her husband were overturned once he retired from the police force after twenty-two years of service. He was a highly-decorated New York State trooper and former federal agent with the DEA drug enforcement task force Dreams of a happy retirement were shattered, as he fought daily battles with his demons, creating a constant nightmare for his family.

It was then that she decided to create a documentary film to raise awareness and open up the conversation in order to break down stigma, so that those suffering would feel more comfortable seeking help. Ortiz also became determined to seek solutions to this problem.

“We did not understand what was happening to my husband because his disintegration was never addressed in the countless hours of training he received during the course of his career,” explains Ortiz. “They never warned him of the psychological dangers involved in police work. His superiors never asked him if he was okay after he experienced a traumatic incident (and there were many). They never mentioned or recognized the reality of PTSD, because PTSD wasn’t supposed to afflict the cops. Cops were supposed to just take it all in stride and go on to the next horror.”

Experts interviewed in the film estimate up to 20 percent of police officers across the nation suffer from PTSD. In the course of filming, Ortiz came to realize that fire and emergency medical personnel were equally susceptible to the disorder.

Bill McGovern, M.A., Program Coordinator for Criminal Justice and Fire Science Technology at SCCC will participate in the presentation and Question and Answer segment following the film, along with Bob Cubby, a Sussex County resident and retired Jersey City Police Captain, who is one of the police officers interviewed in Code 9.

NAMI Sussex Executive Trustee Marjorie Strohsahl says, “Not only is it important for police and first responders (active and retired) to view this film, but it is especially important for their families, friends and the general public to see this documentary. It is hoped that a greater understanding of what these men and women experience in their line of duty will help to bust the stigma and encourage them to seek the services and support they need.”

The film has  garnered a number of awards: Winner of both the Best Documentary and the Audience Choice-Feature from the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival, the IndieFEST Film Award of Merit, and the Laurel of Excellence from the TBAE. Currently, discussions are underway to have the story of the Ortiz family’s struggle with PTSD made into a major motion-picture, available in theaters everywhere.

NAMI Sussex is a co-sponsor of this Code 9 event. The affiliate and NAMI affiliates throughout NJ provide free family education programs and support groups. For more information, call 973-214-0632 or email nami.sussex@gmail.com. Visit naminj.org to locate other affiliates within NJ.

Learn more about the National Alliance on Mental Illness at nami.org. It is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for millions of Americans affected by mental illness by educating, advocating, listening and leading in thousands of communities across the United States.

Brochures on the S.H.A.R.E. program for first responders and their families provided by the non-profit organization Code9 Project will be available at the film screening and may be found on the website www.code9project.org.

For additional information about the November 9th event, please contact t 973-729-5153.