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Constant Exposure To Tragedy Like What Officers Saw During Capitol Riot Can Take Heavy Mental Toll

ANNAPOLIS (WJZ) -- Almost seven months after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, officers are still reeling from mental scars.

On Monday, Washington's Metropolitan Police Department said two of its officers that responded to the insurrection committed suicide.

A total of four law enforcement officers -- Howard Liebengood, Jeffrey Smith, Kyle DeFreytag and Gunther Hashida -- took their lives after their experience that day.

Jeffrey Ian Ross is a criminologist at the University of Baltimore, he said the effects of the Jan. 6 insurrection could linger for years.

"Clearly, the racial epithets and the yelling and the screaming were one factor, but the fact that so many of them were beaten and hit and injured and were both physically and psychologically scarred is devastating for many of them," Ross said.

First responders are constantly exposed to tragic events. They are first on the scene at crashes, they see the graphic aftermath of when victims die, or when children are hurt.

The constant exposure to tragedy takes a toll on first responders. In a report to Congress last year, the Department of Justice said first responders are three times more likely to die by suicide than any other injuries on the job. The report cited research from the nonprofit Blue H.E.L.P.

"Officers go from call to call to call and never really get that time to sit down and talk about how they're feeling, where they are before they end their shift," says Jen Corbin, the director of Anne Arundel County Crisis Response.

County officials said their team has been in existence since 2014, and they help first responders before the first responders resort to suicide.

That same team went to Washington just days after the insurrection to provide emotional support for police officers. The department says they have also assisted Capitol Police and other local departments with peer support training.

"It's the foundation for them to have a team so that they can help themselves and their officers as they experience more trauma because it's not a question of when. We know it's happening," said Lt. Steven Thomas.

The police department also supports a crisis intervention team that assists members of the community. The department said that team recently won an international award for best trauma response team.

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