If you or someone you know is thinking or talking about suicide, please contact the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline number is Confidential, free and available 24/7
In lectures and interviews across the country (Canada & USA), there is talk about how “stressful” police work is. But can the horrors and nightmares of police work, the terrors of near-death experiences over ten, 20 or 30 years lead some officers to suicide? Research says, “Yes” but those in charge say, “No.” No one is suggesting that all police suicides are work related–of course not. But, over and over, we see cases in which officers have performed heroic acts and then died by suicide because of the trauma received from those very same actions.
Mental Health for Police Officers
The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.
Few stories are more discouraging than that of our police suicide prevention programs in the United States and Canada. After their initial success in establishing peer support programs, employee assistance programs and critical incident management teams, progress has stopped for almost three decades and programs have made little progress since.
Why has this happened? There are several reasons.
First, we have the establishment of “feel good” programs based on little more than hope and pseudoscience. These, such as “Be Your Buddy’s Keeper” and “awareness programs” have consistently failed while suicide numbers have risen. Everyone listens, nods, shares a story, learns “the signs” to watch for in another officer (never will it happen to them) and they are “aware.” Officers leave knowing they should ask for help “if they need it.”
They have no idea what to do before then.
Second is a refusal to accept outcomes. When “awareness” fails, we must do more awareness and more reaching out, whether the process itself works or not. This is worsened when numbers are self-manipulated to demonstrate success—for example, speculation as to lives “saved” in spite of increasing number of suicides. Glowing statistics, while they attract support, don’t save lives.
The result of the above is that departments continue doggedly on, in spite of the results, doing the same things year after year. “We tried. We must try harder.”
The sad fact is that police suicides do continue to rise……….
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“In some ways,” wrote one expert, “a cop’s work may be even more traumatic than that of a soldier sent into a war zone. The police officer’s job, over many years, exposes and re-exposes them to traumatic events that would make anybody recoil in horror.”
Somewhere waits a piper, but not for me
I am a police officer who died of suicide from PTSD. At police memorials you like to say, “It is not how they DIED that made them heroes, It is how they LIVED.” I lived a long and honorable career. I lived through the horrors and nightmares many cops will never dream of.
Over years and decades of it can eat at anyone’s soul. After giving everything I had in service, the nightmares came and more. I died one night from a terrible thing called PTSD. It’s often caused by the job, but that’s ignored. Not a single police suicide could be found in 2008 or 2009 in which stress/trauma was given as a cause by the department. Not one — out of almost 300 officer suicides. Police work can’t lead to suicide!
Suddenly. “How I had LIVED,” was forgotten. It was all about how I had DIED. I was called names and buried without honors. My heroic life was forgotten and my family shunned in disgrace.
And who now will rise for these heroes and their families—and be their piper?
Tears turn to ice, ice melts to salt
Grief can cripple, stop you cold….halt
The whole things a process, each stage takes time
From one day to the next, over & under the line
Never quite know, how long the moment will stay
Teeter over the line, then under you sway
There is no right, no wrong, only easing your sorrow
If you’re just straddling the line, there’s always tomorrow
Emotions take over, like waves in the sea
Sometimes needing help, sometimes letting be
You struggle for answers, where does the truth lay
But will you ever find the answer, when someone you love has to die
Just trying to make sense of the end, it’s so final
You start as a seed & when it’s over its primal
Work through the heavy pressure, squeezing your heart
When you wake each morning, just make a fresh start
One day you will discover, that you’ve worked through the pain
You notice the sunshine & don’t see the rain
~ Gary Rubie
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