CMPD sergeant to tell story of PTSD, finding help along the way
First responders recently have endured trying times, trying to keep people safe, especially police officers.
For one CMPD officer, years and years of doing dangerous work took a toll on him mentally.
Sgt. Donnie Penix is the keynote speaker at the second annual Embrace Mental Health Breakfast, and he’ll get to share his experiences Thursday.
Reaching a breaking point
Penix said he reached a breaking point seven years ago and begrudgingly sought help. Now he is helping his fellow officers so they don’t go through what he experienced.
Penix, who works the airport beat at Charlotte Douglas International Airport for CMPD, has been on the force for 26 years.
“It’s a job I love,” Penix said. “I’m a second-generation police officer. My father was a police officer.”
For much of his career, he worked apprehending dangerous criminals as a patrol officer, SWAT, VCAT, the ALERT team, and K-9 before working for the Explosive Detection K-9 team at the airport. But he wasn’t always this upbeat. Years and years of doing a difficult job were taking a toll on him.
“It just compounded and compounded, and it finally got to a breaking point,” he added.
That breaking point came in 2016 while serving a warrant, gunfire erupted, and his partner got shot; he survived.
“That shooting just kinda opened the floodgates of emotion and trauma that I experienced; I just couldn’t take it anymore,” Penix added.
The officer said he had become isolated. He drove a wedge between himself and the people he supervised. They were complaining about his attitude until one day, his chain of command called him in for a meeting and told him.
“(The superior said) You have a problem. And it was the first time when I heard that – that I – it registered – and said – yes I do, and I need some help. So I took a step,” the veteran said.
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