LAKE HALLIE — In April 2016, Lake Hallie police Officer Adam Meyers was forced to use deadly force against a woman who armed herself with a hatchet inside Walmart in Lake Hallie.
The experience plagued Meyers, a 20-year veteran officer, with feelings of guilt and trauma, inspiring him to found Stop the Threat — Stop the Stigma in 2020, an organization devoted to eliminating the stigma around speaking about mental health in a profession often linked to facing your fears daily and carrying on.
“Some people laugh about my struggle and tell me I should just get over it because I’m weak,” Meyers said of his battle with mental health issues. “People sometimes consider talking about mental health just whining, but I welcome that. Even if someone is making a negative comment, we’re still talking about mental health. Good or bad, it’s all important.”
Stop the Threat — Stop the Stigma is both a website and a two-hour presentation, in which Meyers recounts his history with mental health struggles. Meyers said his experience with the harsh reality of working in public service forced him into a dark place for many years.
“When I was spiraling down, I didn’t care what I did,” Meyers said. “I’d drink a pint of vodka and sleep my day away to try and escape the problems I was experiencing. I’m ashamed of it, and it’s embarrassing to reveal that, but it is important to share it so people know the struggles law enforcement goes through.”
With a focus on identifying negative coping mechanisms and developing positive ones, the Stop the Threat — Stop the Stigma website offers a variety of resources for those struggling with mental health issues in any profession. Along his mental health journey, Meyers identified abusing alcohol and experimenting with marijuana as negative aspects of his life and replaced it with speaking with others about his struggle and exercising (losing 40 pounds in the process) to feel the dopamine hits he desperately needed.
Meyers has been on the move the past year and a half reaching out to professionals in the Chippewa Valley, hoping to help in any way he can one individual at a time. He said the stigma around talking about mental health in the law enforcement field isn’t exclusive to police officers, but remains prevalent in nearly every aspect of society.
“It doesn’t matter what profession you’re in, it’s OK to talk about mental health,” Meyers said. “You don’t need to suffer in silence. I was involved in a situation where I had to use deadly force against someone and that memory is with me every day. It’s something I don’t take lightly, and I hope by sharing my experience with others it will inspire them to address their mental health and help others along the way.”
Meyers said the first thing anyone struggling with mental health issues should do is contact friends, family and medical professionals to find the best avenue for them to cope and recover.
On April 8, 2016, Meyers shot and killed Melissa Abbott, a resident at the Northern Wisconsin Center. Abbott was swinging a hatchet around other shoppers in the store. When Meyers arrived, Abbott raised the hatchet above her shoulders and charged at him. Meyers shot her twice, once in leg and once in the abdomen. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she died from her wounds later that evening.
In May 2016, then-Chippewa County District Attorney Steve Gibbs cleared him of all wrong-doing, writing that there was “overwhelming evidence in this case that supports a finding that Officer Adam Meyers acted in self-defense and that his belief that he reasonably believed his life was in danger, or that he was likely to suffer great bodily harm.”