A just-released White Paper on Mental Health and Suicide among First Responders commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation examines mental illness among police officers and firefighters, who commit suicide at a higher rate, and have PTSD and depression as much as 5 times higher…, than the civilian population.
USA Today reporting about the study said that “last year, 103 firefighters and 140 police officers committed suicide, whereas 93 firefighters and 129 officers died in the line of duty”
The white paper study, the Ruderman White Paper on Mental Health and Suicide of First Responders, examines a number of factors contributing to mental health issues among first responders and what leads to their elevated rate of suicide. One study included in the white paper found that on average, police officers witness 188 ‘critical incidents’ during their careers. This exposure to trauma can lead to several forms of mental illness. For example, PTSD and depression rates among firefighters and police officers have been found to be as much as 5 times higher than the rates within the civilian population, which causes these first responders to commit suicide at a considerably higher rate (firefighters: 18/100,000; police officers: 17/100,000; general population 13/100,000). Even when suicide does not occur, untreated mental illness can lead to poor physical health and impaired decision-making.
I had a chance to speak with Robert Douglas, the Executive Director of the National Police Suicide Foundation, and one of the contributors to the Ruderman White Paper and he told me:
“Education is key. The sooner we can get people to start talking about his issue the more we can change attitudes, and reduce the number of police suicides. Officers are learning more about themselves as they learn about what happens to the people who have committed suicide. It’s helping them be more authentic and open about their feelings. I have so much hope for this new generation of officers and the strides they are taking to improve the openness of our profession.”
For our free CopsAlive Resources to start you own Law Enforcement Suicide Prevention program TODAY visit: www.CopsAlive.com/SuicidePrevention
For more statistics, information and resources on law enforcement officer suicides please visit the website of Blue H.E.L.P. at www.WeAreBlueHelp.org
We have a problem in our profession. What are you doing about it?
If you are doing something to prevent suicides in your agency or community, leave a comment below and let the world know what you are doing.