Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America. Approximately 800,000 people die by suicide each year and that equates to one person dying every 40 seconds, which makes suicide a global pandemic on top of the one we are currently living through right now.
Responding to scenes of such tragedy are the men and women of law enforcement, who day-by-day experience devastating sites that come with the job. Police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession. It’s so prevalent in fact, that the number of police officers who died by suicide is more than triple that of officers who were fatally injured in the line of duty. Research attributes this to the unique combination of easy access to deadly weapons, intense stress, and human devastation that police are exposed to on a daily basis. Statistics show that 13 out of every 100,000 people die by suicide in the general population – that number increases to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers.
Today, law enforcement officers are under more stress than ever before. In the United States, at least 228 police officers died by suicide in 2019. That number is more than were killed in the line of duty and is also the highest number to ever be recorded. To address this crisis, we need to focus on officers well-being and be aware of warning signs.
Check Officers Well-Being
- Mental Health Professionals: Departments need to be proactive and provide access to mental health professionals for officers. Officers should openly talk about their problems with someone who understands.
- Communication: Open communication needs to be normalized. Openly talking about your problems can be seen as a sign of weakness, but not when it affects a life. Let’s remove the stigma of keeping things to ourselves.
Look for Warning Signs
- Officer talks about suicide or death
- Officer says things such as, “I wish I were dead” or “I am going to end it all”
- Officer claims to be overwhelmed and cannot find solutions to their problems
- Officer self-isolates from friends and family
- Officer tends to believe that life is meaningless or hopeless
- Officer gives away personal items
- Officer is neglecting physical appearance
- Officer exhibits reckless, unsafe behavior
- Officer doesn’t care to lose their job
- Officer has recently become an alcohol or drug abuser
- Officer has experienced an improved mood after being depressed (This is the most dangerous sign as it shows that the officer has come to terms with death.)
This year, there have been numerous reports on suicides linked to COVID-19 but it’s still too early to determine how the pandemic will ultimately affect suicide rates. Surely, the pandemic has had an impact on our law enforcement officers on top of the stress of the job itself.
To friends and family of Law Enforcement, and all who support them, reach out to our men and women in Blue and ask how things are going. Nobody should have to suffer in silence.
You are so loved! You are valuable! If it wasn’t for you, people like me would be sad, and beaten, and some of us murdered. Instead, we feel there’s hope for happiness because you cared about us. You showed up! Thank you!! If you hadn’t cared, if you hadn’t shown up, I would feel alone and terrified. Instead, I have some hope that I might be able to carry on safely. When I pray, I ask God to protect you from harm and to help you find healthy ways to cope with the atrocities you’re witness to and the abuse you endure. When I thank God for the blessings in life, I thank him for you, a person who chose to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and to stand up to those who are unreasonable and scary. You make life worth living. Whenever I see you and get up the nerve, I like to take selfies with you for my “hero collection”. You are a hero. When you worry about the problems you couldn’t fix or beat yourself up for the mistakes you made, I think you forget that you’re only human and you sometimes have superhuman expectations of yourself. I mean, you’re real cool and strong and all, but you’re still just a person like me. It’s okay that unfortunate things happen out of your control because that is part of life. When you smile, you brighten my day because it’s a reminder that you are a really really good person who makes sacrifices for people like me every day, people who somwtimes otherwise feel useless and unimportant. I love you, Officer!! Thank you for being alive and helping me find a reason to stay alive too. (((hugs)))