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New Texas support network aims to end officer suicides

4 months 1 week 18 hours ago Tuesday, January 18 2022 Jan 18, 2022 January 18, 2022 7:24 AM January 18, 2022 in News - Local

A Valley officer is leading a new effort in the region to reduce officer suicides.

With more than 20 years of policing, Michael Mata has experienced his fair share of struggles.

“Officers see a lot of fatal accidents, we see a lot of death,” said Mata, Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network Regional Director.

In his other life, when Mata wasn’t donning the uniform, instances like divorce and child custody made his story a difficult one.

“When I was struggling, somebody stepped up, and they said, ‘Hey, let’s go here. This is where you’re going to go and you’re going to get help.’ So, I just want to be that person to help them out as well,” Mata said.

As a means to pass on that assistance shown to him, Mata is now part of a growing network that assists all Texas officers by connecting them with volunteers of retired and former police officers who understand the challenges they face on and off the job.

“They’ll be able to answer the call from the officer that’s struggling with mental illness or depression or with a suicidal ideation-type thing,” Mata said.

Laura Renteria, an officer with the Pharr Police Department, said that lifeline is something that will allow officers not to have to bottle things up.

“Having somebody like Officer Mata here is going to be a great advantage for us," Renteria said. "To have somebody to speak to and be able to vent and let everything out and not hold so much in."

As a person who has lost both friends and family to suicide, Mata says he’s here to stay.

“I’m going to be here as long as it takes, but we don’t want to have officer-suicides because the families that are left behind — they struggle," Mata said. 

The voluntary peer network is an operation that was created by the Caruth Police Institute at the University of North Texas in Dallas.

Mata is looking for at least 75 volunteers of retired and former police officers within the first year.

If you’re interested in being a part of that network, email Mata at michael.mata@pd.pharr-tx.gov

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