By Kevin Deutsch
Tamarac sheriff’s deputies are making time to simply be.
These would-be buddhas are clearing their minds in their brand new “Zen Den,” part of a program being rolled out this month by the Broward Sheriff’s Office Tamarac District command.
The timing coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month, and has one key goal: providing a respite for BSO employees who have experienced trauma from a call, stress, fatigue, or simply need a moment to gather their thoughts.
“First responders are more likely to suffer from depression and PTSD because of the critical incidents they see,” said BSO Major Aimee Russo. “Over their career, they see repeated trauma or violent incidents. The Tamarac Zen Den is a room where our employees can come in and have a respite from the calls that they are on. If they respond to a critical incident or a traumatic scene, they can come into this room and relax for a couple of minutes, regroup, and refocus. That places them in a better position to respond to the next call.”
The initiative was created through a collaboration between Russo, Tamarac District Captain Jeffrey Cirminiello and Tamarac City Manager Kathleen Gunn, according to BSO.
The Tamarac District command made the Zen Den a reality by turning an old room into a mini-oasis with plush carpet, fresh paint, soft lighting, curtains, soothing music, and a massage chair.
Participants are permitted to use the Zen Den on duty so long as their supervisor is aware, officials said.
“The isolated room is equipped with a zero-gravity chair, access to the Calm App with various self-guided meditation programs, and literary resources on stress management,” Cirminiello said. “It is essential to recognize that it’s okay not to be okay.”
“Ultimately, they will become better officers, better deputies, better people for our community when they deal with the stress.”
Gunn also lauded the program, which aims to care for the people “we ask to go into violent situations and who are on the frontlines.”
“We know we have to take care of our physical health, but our emotional and mental health is hugely important too,” the city manager said.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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