LAKE HALLIE, Wis. (WEAU) – A Lake Hallie Police officer is using his personal challenges to raise awareness about first responders’ mental health.
Adam Meyers’s life changed on April 8, 2016, when he responded to a call from the Lake Hallie Walmart where 25-year-old Melissa Abbott was in the store with a hatchet.
“It had a real big impact on me,” Meyers said.
As one of the first officers at the scene, Meyers ordered Abbott to put the weapon down. Instead, she ran toward him. Meyers then shot Abbot who died.
“The moment I pulled the trigger I changed lives,” Meyers said. “Not only did I take a life but I changed my own life and I know that I changed others’ lives, probably people that I’ll never meet, and that’s something that I take very seriously. That moment is with me every single day of my life.”
Though investigators ruled the shooting justified, Meyers couldn’t just move on.
“There’s a lot of different things that I did to try to cope negatively with it,” he said. “I abused alcohol, and when I abused alcohol, I mean I drank liquor and I would combine sleeping medicine, cold medicine to try to numb the pain. I just didn’t care at the moment and I wanted everything to go away.”
Marshfield Clinic Licensed Professional Counselor Sharon Besterfeldt said Meyers’s experience isn’t unusual.
She added people often forget about how trauma impacts first responders and they tend to overlook their need to heal.
“The assumption may be, for a lot of people, that they just kind of move on and forgetting that they’re just human and they witnessed something and/or took part in something that was very traumatic,” Besterfeldt said.
For Meyers, it took years of self-medicating before he sought professional help.
“I worked very hard to get in the law enforcement profession,” he said. “I worked very hard to try to be a positive role model to my daughters and I knew that my life would continue to suffer if I would continue down the path that I was on.”
Once he started putting his life back together, Meyers found a new mission, helping fellow first responders with similar experiences.
In December 2020, he started “Stop the Threat-Stop the Stigma” on Facebook. A few months later, it morphed into an LLC.
“There aren’t a lot of law enforcement professionals, or those who are working in the public safety profession, that speak openly about their mental health,” Meyers said. “I know that I’m not the only one that goes through this. I know that I’m not the only one that has had these experiences.”
The organization encourages and provides resources for first responders to take care of their mental well-being.
Meyers said since starting “Stop the Treat-Stop the Stigma,” he’s received calls from first responders looking for help in multiple states.
He also said he still sees a counselor who helps him cope with the 2016 shooting.