Franklin County, Va. (WFXR) – Lieutenant Erik Mollin has dedicated his life to law enforcement and given much of that time to helping other officers deal with stress and often, the sorts of tragic incidents that never go away.
He loves being an officer, but he knows from experience how dangerous the job can be. On January 7th, 2014, he was responding to a reported home invasion robbery – and nearly died. He heard other officers shouting, then gunfire. It was dark. He ran toward danger and into a fleeing, armed suspect.
“When we collided, he spun around and brought up a pistol and fired, Mollin said. “When he fired, I took impact to the mouth. I don’t know whether it would be the bullet. I think it was more the percussion from the firearm, because there was a lot of muzzle blast, but my mouth filled up with blood pretty quickly after that.”
Mollin and other officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect and made the arrest. As bad as that experience was, it helps Lt. Mollin to help other officers through the Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program. He has traveled the state, helping others deal with trauma, stress, and anguish, just as he, himself, has.
Mollin said: “As we deal with a critical incident, and you’re going through that, sometimes you can feel as though you’re alone. And so the peer support through VALEAP, that the sheriff’s office is a big participant in, allows us to normalize what the people are feeling. ‘Hey, this might not be something that you felt before, but it is normal for someone who has been through a critical incident.’ And a lot of the times, that is what people need to understand that what they’re feeling is okay and that they’re not alone.”
Lt. Mollin is also a member of the group “Putting a Dent in Mental Health” which advocates for federal funding and assistance for first responders across the country. One of his main concerns, the high suicide rate of police officers and other first-responders. He says it is critical for those who need help dealing with a traumatic event or a buildup of stress over the years to talk through it and get the help they need.
For more information about VALEAP, visit their website. http://valeap.org/