The Sussex County affiliate of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and St. Kateri R.C. Church in Sparta are partnering to present the documentary film, Code 9, Officer Needs Assistance, on Saturday, March 4, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. The film spotlights PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) among police and other first responders, a major challenge which is vastly overlooked and slow to be acknowledged.
The film screening will be held at St. Kateri Church, 427 Stanhope Road, Sparta, downstairs in the Community Room. The event is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is not required.
Filmmaker Deborah Louise Ortiz was inspired to make this documentary film because her husband Michael suffered from PTSD as a result of his twenty-two years of service with the New York State Police. Ortiz also became determined to seek solutions to this problem and to advocate for policies, programs, and services to help first responders both prevent and heal from post-traumatic stress.
"We did not understand what was happening to my husband because his disintegration was never addressed in the countless hours of training he received during the course of his career," explains Ortiz. "They never warned him of the psychological dangers involved in police work. His superiors never asked him if he was okay after he experienced a traumatic incident (and there were many). They never mentioned or recognized the reality of PTSD, because PTSD wasn't supposed to afflict the cops. Cops were supposed to just take it all in stride and go on to the next horror."
Experts interviewed in the film estimate that up to twenty percent of police officers across the nation suffer from PTSD. In the course of filming, Ortiz came to realize that fire and emergency medical personnel were equally susceptible to the disorder.
St. Kateri parishoner and Sparta resident Bob Cubby is one of the police officers Ortiz interviewed for the film. Cubby, who is a retired Jersey City police captain, will participate in a Question and Answer segment following the showing of the film.
NAMI Sussex Board member Marjorie Strohsahl, who is also a St. Kateri parishoner, has been working with Bob Cubby to make sure Code 9 screenings are held in multiple venues throughout northwest New Jersey. “Not only is it important for police and first responders to view this film, it is especially important for their families, friends and the general public to see this documentary. It is hoped that a greater understanding of what these men and women experience in their line of duty will help to bust the stigma and encourage them to seek the services and support they need," says Strohsahl.
Code 9 has garnered a number of awards. The film was the winner of both Best Documentary and Audience Choice-Feature awards from the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival, the Laurel of Excellence from the Tampa Bay Arts and Education Network, and an IndieFEST Film Award of Merit.
For more information about the upcoming film screening or about the mission of NAMI to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness, call Marjorie Strohsahl at 973-943-2155 or visit www.nami-sussex-nj.org.
For more information about Code 9, as well as programs developed by Deborah Ortiz and Brandielee Baker to assist police officers and other first responders and their families affected by PTSD, visit www.code9project.org.