OC87 Recovery Diaries is proud to present the second of our new three-part series with first responders entitled “Beneath The Vest: Conversations about Mental Health.” The series was created to address the mental health challenges encountered by the first responder community. As in other parts of our society, first responders face a culture of stigmatization and discrimination, which may be keeping people from getting the help they need.
This video features Officer Joe Peterson of the Norristown Police Department in Norristown, PA. Joe has wrestled with alcoholism and the stresses of life as a police officer, a sometimes combustible combination. The cumulative effects of trauma took a toll, and “ending the pain” became a mantra for him that led to some very dark moments. At a particularly low period in his life, Joe’s wife and children left him, and he was at the brink of suicide. That moment, thankfully, was a turning point. “This is not how the story is going to end for me,” he told himself, and built a road to recovery that includes therapy, support from key friends in his life, and physical and mental fitness. Although there was much lost along the way, Joe has an incredibly inspiring outlook on life.
Today, Joe is a healthy, strong officer who is able to apply the lessons he’s learned in life in his career as an SRO (School Resource Officer) at a middle school in Norristown, PA. He’s a mentor to hundreds of kids as he teaches lessons of respect and self-worth. “I feel like the good Lord has given me the ability to still be here and still inspire people,” Joe says. “I want them to see that it’s okay. You can feel rough on some days but that doesn’t have to be the end of our story. Like it wasn’t the end of my story.”
Watch Joe’s story for yourself and be inspired.