Fans of GH’s Maurice Benard and his video podcast, State Of Mind, have grown accustomed to his celebrity guests sharing their vulnerable sides, and more recently, everyday people with bigger-than-life stories to tell. This week, the actor-turned-ever-more-seasoned-host invited a retired police officer, Ben Martinez, to share his experience of being assaulted while on duty and how it lead to being diagnosed as bipolar at the age of 50.
Maurice Benard and Ben Martinez: The Incident
Benard (Sonny Corinthos) met Ben Martinez through his young son-in-law, Carlos Avila, at a recent gathering. Ben Martinez, Jr. and Avila are friends and shared the story of young Ben’s dad, Ben Martinez, Sr., a retired police officer who suffered through years of depression before and after a shooting incident on the job years prior and had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Long before the incident, Martinez had moments where he found himself withdrawing from others. “It’s interesting. Going on what I know now, my mother had depression which I didn’t know. Growing up, as a kid, I didn’t pick up on that, but as I started my life, I would get into these very quiet modes.” He described the early signs. “I would see myself not interacting with my wife, not interacting with my kids as much as I wanted to, and that is the aspect of depression that would come into it.”
Martinez shared how depression had plagued him and the on-the-job incident that drove him to seek help, “Throughout my adult life, it became more and more difficult to deal with.” His work only amplified the darkness he carried with him. “I think one of the points that it became more difficult for me, initially, was I was involved in an officer-involved shooting. It was a person high on marijuana and alcohol. I tried to subdue him, and it went bad for me, and I ended up on the ground. He was basically on top of me, landing punches on me, and at that point, I did have to shoot him.”
The former military man turned peace officer learned the hard way that tough guys aren’t bulletproof. “You would think, ‘okay, I survived the shooting, everything should be okay.’ I found myself in a hole so deep that I, basically, didn’t want to live at that point.”
Ben Martinez: The Aftermath
The seasoned officer found himself doing what many others do to fight the pain of mental illness — self-medicating or drinking. “I wasn’t a drinker beforehand,” he explained. “I was able to ease off of it before it got any worse, but it was still enough to alert my wife that something wasn’t right. Coming home and finding me drinking when we only ever had alcohol when we went out together was a red flag for her.”
*Trigger Warning: The following subject matter contains references to Suicide and Suicide Ideation. If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, there are ways to get help. Call 988 or call 911 in case of an emergency.
When he found he couldn’t heal what ailed him, thoughts of suicide crept in. “This is difficult for me to talk about because I do love my wife. I do love my children.” He continued, “But this was a point in my life where I actually got the gun, and I did put it towards my head, and I did push the trigger, and what happened is the bullet didn’t cycle right, and it just jammed. To be honest, it was just one of those things where it was, ‘Oh, just not today.’”
After years of trying to cope, Martinez ended up in a mental facility. “I am not going to say it is culture. I am not going to say it is machismo or the drive of being a police officer [that kept him from getting treatment].” He finally realized he needed help. A hard thing to do when you are the one everyone turns to, as many fellow officers, firefighters, or military personnel understand.
He summed up the overall rationale of the people sworn to protect and serve us. “No, we all hurt. We all absorb a lot. Unfortunately, we are not bulletproof shields. We are sponges, and we soak that stuff up on a daily basis, and if we don’t have a way to squeeze that out down the road, it becomes heavier and heavier, and it weighs you down more and more.'”
In the aftermath of George Floyd, the defund the police movement, and the January 6th Capitol attack, General Hospital’s Maurice Benard sat down with a man of humble beginnings who joined the military, and later the police to do the right thing. Awe-inspiring to those out there ravaged by the daily deluge of negative news.
Ben Martinez spoke softly of growing up in Coachella Valley, where his family worked multiple jobs to provide for their children, struggling in school, following in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps to join the military, working with migrants and refugees at Guantanamo Bay, and what led him to be a police officer.
He was open about his experiences as an officer involved in a shooting incident, the aftermath, using his struggles to help others, and finally reaching out and getting the help he needed. It is an eye-opening look behind the scenes of the boys in blue who do it for all the right reasons. Don’t miss this emotional episode of State Of Mind.
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