NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Why Police Officers Would Consider Suicide
· Death of child or spouse
· Loss of child or spouse through divorce
· Terminal illness
· Responsibility for partners death
· Killed someone out of anger
· Feeling alone
· Sexual accusations
· Loss of job due to conviction of a crime
· Being locked-up
MYTHS OF SUICIDE
· People who talk about suicide won’t commit it
· Suicide is inherited
· People who commit suicide are crazy
· Once a person threatens or attempts suicide, they will always be suicidal
· An explicit discussion of suicide may lead the person to commit suicide
· Once the person begins to improve, the risk has ended
· Suicide happens without warning
by Ron Clark, RN, MS, Connecticut State Police (ret.) Andy O’Hara, California Highway Patrol (ret.)
Badge of Life completed its most recent annual survey of police suicides for 2016.
Known as NSOPS (National Study of Police Suicides), this was our fourth in a series of studies that began in 2008. The studies for 2008 and 2012 were published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health. It is our plan to publish the 2016 study in the same publication.
One thing was clear in 2016: police suicides took another noticeable drop. We are the first group to track police suicides on a scientific basis and this is the second reduction we have seen since we began monitoring them in 2008. This is encouraging news that we tentatively attribute to the increased number of departments adopting peer support programs and the increased willingness of officers, many of them younger, to seek professional assistance—not only when they have a problem, but before problems develop (through things like annual "mental health checks"). Other factors may be involved, as well, and we will keep you advised through our newsletters, website and, of course, the final published study.
Our studies show the following:
2008 police suicides: 141
2009 police suicides: 143
2012 police suicides: 126
2016 police suicides: 108
Profile of suicide cases:
Average age, 2016: 42
Average yrs on job: 17
Some additional data from the study that might be of interest to you includes:
91 percent of suicides were by males. Ages 40 – 44 were most at risk.
Time on the job: 15 – 19 years were most at risk.
This national study of police suicides (NSOPS) was a massive undertaking, requiring the review of almost 20,000 emails, the monitoring of news, social media, personal communications, websites and the voluntary contributions from many of you in the field. In spite of this encouraging news, the fact is that police suicides continue at a rate much higher than the number of police officers killed by felons. This alone reminds us of the need to redouble our efforts, not only at suicide intervention, but on the maintenance of mental health in law enforcement. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the officer whose mind is on other problems, be they at home or at work, is a danger to himself and other officers who are relying on him. Much remains to be done.
What To Do
· Establish contact and rapport
· Express you concern
· Ask directly (are you thinking of killing yourself)
· Does the person have a plan
· Is the plan specific-how, where, when
· Are the means available
· Are the means lethal
· MOST OF ALL, BE A FRIEND AND DO NOT JUDGE