Police Suicide Prevention and Awareness
by Kevin Caruso
The police officer took his unloaded gun, placed it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger -- he needed to see if he could actually pull the trigger after pointing the gun at his own head.
He was preparing to die.
He only needed one practice attempt; now he felt he was ready.
He then slowly loaded his handgun and began raising it to his head.
But the door to his room was opened, and before he could pull the trigger, his cat walked in.
He paused, looked at the cat, put the gun down and said to himself, "Who will take care of my cat if I kill myself?"
Seconds away from a suicide, this officer decided not to die.
And yes, this is a true story. The officer received help and is doing fine now, but wants to remain anonymous.
More police officers die by suicide than in the line of duty.
Being a police officer is a demanding and stressful job. Officers put their lives on the line every day, are constantly being called to situations that other people would never want to deal with, and may see disturbing scenes of violence and death.
And police officers do not want to be seen as weak. So if they have depression, or any other mental illness, they are extremely unlikely to get help.
But untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide.
And because police officers have a gun, a lethal suicide method is always available.
Mixing a stressful job with untreated depression and a gun is certainly extremely dangerous.
So why don't officers simply go to their departments for help? Because they not only do not want to be seen as weak, but also do not want to be put on leave, reassigned to desk duty, have their gun taken from them, have other officers talk disparagingly about them, or be passed up for promotions in the future.
And all of the above has occurred to many officers who have tried to get help form their departments.
So the vast majority of depressed officers do nothing, and remain at a high risk for suicide.
And when a police officer dies by suicide, there is no 21-gun salute, no outpouring of sympathy from the community, no funeral with thousands of officers in attendance, and no long procession to the cemetery with long rows of police cars and citizens lining the streets.
And the name of the officer is not be placed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Yes, the social stigma of suicide affects police officers also.
And the survivors of police suicide oftentimes feel abandoned by their community and their police department.
And if the overwhelming shock and emotions were not enough, the survivors, who are usually strained financially, do not receive any benefits, including insurance money, and the money that the Justice Department gives to families of those killed in the line of duty.
So what can be done?
First, all departments should have a suicide prevention and awareness program. Officers should be knowledgeable about suicide so they may better assist citizens, and may also get help for other officers or themselves if needed.
The Suicide.org Suicide Prevention Guide is free. It is not just for schools, it is for any individual, group, or organization that can benefit from it.
Click below to get a free suicide prevention programn for your department.
Free Suicide Prevention Program
Officers should also have confidential assistance that they can obtain from their department. Although most officers are highly disinclined to seek help from their departments, every effort should be made to offer confidential counseling and assistance to the officers.
If you are a police officer and you think that you may be suffering from depression or are suicidal, you need to get help now. You can call one of the numbers below for help:
You can receive confidential counseling and treatment now. Wherever you live, find a doctor and a therapist who have offices very far from your home, community, and police department, and make appointments.
The further away the better.
I have known of officers who have still disguised their appearance (even after driving to distant locations) because they were concerned that someone might recognize them at a therapist's or psychiatrist's office.
Taking such an action is an intelligent thing to do. As a police officer, privacy and safety concerns are always important.
So do whatever you need to do to safeguard your privacy, but go! You need to make appointments with a doctor and a therapist so that you can be assessed and treated. Depression is a very serious, potentially deadly, mental illness.
Again, untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide.
If you do not receive treatment, you could die by suicide. Period.
And if you need to take medicine for depression, then take it. You would take medicine
for any other illness, right? Then why not for depression? Stigma. Forget the stigma,
concentrate on getting better so that you can proprely protect and serve the members
of your community. And no one needs to know that you are getting treatment.
If you are depressed, you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, and thus cannot think clearly. Depression does not just affect the way you feel - again, it affects the way you think. And thus depression can cause you to do things you would never do if you were not depressed, so get help if you need it.
You can get confidential help, and you can get better.
If you are a police officer, you cannot help others unless you help yourself first. And the reason you became a police officer was to help others.
You hold an honorable and extremely important job.
And to perform your job well you need to be free of the depression and any other mental illness that you might have.
Pick up the phone now if you need help.
If you do not need help now, know that it is always available for you.
Remember, you can also call 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK twenty-four hours a day.
If you are a police officer, and you serve honorably, you are a hero.
Thank you for serving.
If you or someone you know is suicidal, please go to the Home Page of this website for immediate help.
I love you.