National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Suicide and the Code of Silence
Every 12 minutes in the United States, there is one death by suicide.* Each year, 125 -150 police officers die by suicide ― almost triple the number killed by criminals, and double that of traffic crashes.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a reminder of the urgent need for open, honest dialogue around mental health issues that can lead to loss of life. There are many potential risk factors and warning signs of suicide. Among them are exposure to trauma, easy access to lethal means, and a stigma associated with asking for help ― factors inherent to jobs in law enforcement.
There should be no shame in seeking support ― for anyone. But for police officers (who suffer from PTSD at more than 5 times the rate of the general population**), the pressure to keep feelings hidden is ingrained in the culture. There is an enormous value placed on strength and resilience, and officers may fear being perceived as a “weak link” if they self-report. Law enforcement agencies worry that reporting mental health issues or suicides will reflect negatively on the department or result in liability claims. And families that suffer a suicide are cut off from pensions, death benefits, and life and health insurance: suicide is not considered a line-of-duty death.
At LEAP, we care about public safety, and we want officers who are under extreme stress to seek the support and resources they need ― for their own well-being and that of the community. See Retired LAPD Sgt. Cheryl Dorsey’s message of encouragement to fellow officers, and anyone who may be feeling isolated and hopeless, to reach out for help.
Call: 1–800–273-TALK or text “Home” to 741741.
*According to the CDC
** Ruderman Foundation study on Mental Health and Suicide of First Responders