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.