EDITORS NOTE: Guest contributor Sean Peterson is a patrolman with the Taunton Police Department in Southeastern Massachusetts and a member of the regional Critical Incident Stress Management team. He is also the owner and performance director at Chaos Fitness.
I sat down to write this in the wake of New York City Police Department’s ninth suicide this year. The current Blue H.E.L.P. statistics stand at 131 suicides on the year, with four months to go. Protesters are literally begging police to commit suicide in Portland, Oregon. With what feels like everyone and everything against us, how do we rise above the darkness? Below I have outlined some thoughts and ideas surrounding mental and physical health we first responders can easily employ in such trying times.
A Physical and Mental Approach
“Combat” or “Square” Breathing
Here’s the simple process…
1. Intently breath in with strong focus- slowly counting 1, 2, 3, 4
2. hold that breath counting 1, 2, 3 ,4
3. slowly and consistently exhale that breath 1, 2, 3, 4
Simply put, combat/square breathing is an effective way to calm the nervous system. It is a very basic introduction to the world of mindfulness, creating space between ourselves and our reactions. It brings our focus to the present moment by concentrating our attention on our breathing, allowing us to slow things down for a while, so our bodies can catch up. Consider implementing this technique to offset the adrenaline spikes and stressors associated with hot calls, inter-department nonsense and the obstacles of everyday life. The beauty of this technique is… Continue reading
Last year was the first year that the number of reported law enforcement suicides exceeded the number of Line of Duty Deaths. It’s happening again this year.
As of September 9, 2019 Blue H.E.L.P. has verified 142 suicides while the NLEOMF has only reported 83 Line of Duty Deaths.
So what are you willing to do to stop this problem from happening at your agency?
Do you have a suicide prevention program in your agency?
Well, you no longer have an excuse for not having a program. With a video produced by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Working Minds Program and the Carson J Spencer Foundation, and our CopsAlive.com roll call discussion guide you can create a ready made program the moment you finish reading this page.
Recently, we were in Washington D.C. attending a banquet called Honoring the Service of Law Enforcement Officers Who Died by Suicide. This first time banquet was held in conjunction with National Police Week and was sponsored by BLUE H.E.L.P. Its purpose was to honor and recognize the service of offices who made that fateful decision and their survivors. It is Blue HELP’s mission to put names and faces to the men and women of Law Enforcement whose emotional injuries become too much to bear. Although the number of Law Enforcement personnel who take their own lives typically exceeds… Continue reading
It’s National Suicide Prevention Week again (September 9th – 15th, 2018) in the United States which is a week-long campaign to inform and engage health professionals and the general public about suicide prevention and warning signs of suicide.
I lost one of my law enforcement friends to suicide in 2007 and that’s what prompted me to start CopsAlive.com.
In my opinion, law enforcement suicide is a symptom of what ails our profession, and it should be an priority issue to resolve — but it hasn’t been.
This year, I thought I would follow suit with some other enlightened thinkers on this issue and challenge you to think about how our law enforcement culture contributes to suicide, and how we can fix that… Continue reading
How do you handle that one guest that just will not leave? I recently heard a definition for what trauma is. Trauma was defined as: when you leave the scene, but the scene does not leave you. That definition resonated with me. How many calls did I leave that did not leave me?
I know we all have scenes and calls that have not left us. Some are years old. Some are obvious. The larger scenes and the obviously tragic calls stay with us. It is expected. In my department, certain calls are expected to cause trauma such as an officer involved shooting or a line of duty death.
When something like that happens, peer support is automatically activated and… Continue reading
EDITORS NOTE: This time of year can be tough for cops and other emergency responders just like everyone in society. It’s hard to think about suicides, but maybe this is the best time for us to look after our health as well as that of our peers. Julie Zielinski is a Law Enforcement Survival Institute faculty member who lost her Sheriff’s Deputy son to a completed suicide. Julie now writes and teaches about suicide prevention for law enforcement professionals. As the newedition of her book Matt’s Last Call: Surviving Our Protectors is released she reflects upon her journey. Read to the end of the article to find our free CopsAlive suicide prevention resources that you can activate in your agency TODAY!
My Journey 2017
On June 1, 2005, my 27 year old son, Matthew Zielinski, took his life due to a failed relationship. At the time he was a Chelan County Sheriff Deputy in Washington State, who had achieved this dream job eleven months earlier. Obviously, it was devastating to my family and I but more about my journey later.
This tragic event has birthed in me a passion to learn everything I can about suicide prevention in law enforcement. Through research, attending conferences, and contact with experts in the field it appears that deaths by suicide in law enforcement are 2-3 times greater than line of duty deaths (LOD) nationwide. This is astounding yet little is being done by law enforcement agencies to spend more time with mental health issues including suicide prevention. In fact, cover-up is common.
Editor’s Note: Joe is a faculty member of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute and recently published this article on CalibrePress.com. We are honored that he is sharing it with us as well.
Nobody leaves police work the same person as when they entered it. Moreover, being a law enforcement officer can either be the best or worse job you’ve ever had.
Like the rest of you, I’ve watched with interest the latest assaults and criticisms of police officers. After reflecting back on 38 years of police work, it now seems public sentiment is supportive of those who are seeking to restrict the ability of many police officers to protect society. The general public has little or no concept of the experiences or emotions that police officers contend with throughout their careers.
National Partnership Launches Police Suicide Prevention Facilitation Guide
At its highest levels, the national law enforcement community acknowledges suicide prevention as a health and safety priority. In 2012 there were 126 documented suicides of police officers (versus 49 killed by gunfire in the line of duty). In 2013 the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) held a forum called “Breaking the Silence: A National Symposium on Law Enforcement Office Suicide and Mental Health,” and in 2014 the IACP helped develop a video in partnership with the Carson J Spencer Foundation, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and the American Association of Suicidology entitled Breaking the Silence: Suicide Prevention in Law Enforcement (access video here: https://youtu.be/fBJbo7mnnBs). In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, and as part of an expanded collaborative effort, the partnership is releasing a video facilitation training guide for law enforcement agencies. The guide can be downloaded as a free PDF here: http://carsonjspencer.org/files/9214/4078/2987/20150817_LE_Video_Guide.pdf
“As a law enforcement officer for 30 plus years, the last eight as chief, I recognize the value of sustained, comprehensive and coordinated suicide prevention efforts for… law enforcement agencies. These tools can provide departments with an important first step in opening discussions around the sensitive issue of suicide and mental health,” said Kenosha Police Chief John Morrissey, member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Workplace Task Force. Continue reading
By: Jonathan Sheinberg, MD, FACC Cedar Park Police Department
EDITORS NOTE: Dr. Jon Sheinberg is Board Certified Cardiologist and he is a sworn officer in the State of Texas. He is working hard to learn more about and fight heart disease in law enforcement. We conducted an interview with Dr. Sheinberg and are honored to publish his article.
As a fellow Law Enforcement Officer and a physician I am trying to spread the word. We are missing the boat, and because of this, we are dying. There is a simple reason that law enforcement officers have some of the best pensions in the country – we do not live long enough after retirement to fully collect them. Several programs have been created to address premature officer death and officer safety is a primary concern for every agency whether on the local, state or federal level. Police officers and Special Agents are intimately aware of safety policy and procedure requirements: wear reflective vests, always use body armor, do not engage in high- speed pursuits for low-level crimes etc. Despite these efforts however, there is another cause of officer death and disability that is usually overlooked – cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease is a major problem for law enforcement!
Heart attacks are always in the top two or three categories of police line of duty deaths. However, if extrapolated to a full 24-hour day, heart attack likely becomes the number one killer of men and women in uniform. This is not new information. More than 20 years ago, International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) published some of their initial data (Violanti, 2013). The data are shocking. The life expectancy of a police officer is 20 years less than his or her civilian counterpart. Continue reading
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