Police suicide rate has been slowly inching up year after year with a massive 24% increase nationwide for this year. For the NYPD, this rate has doubled so far with 9 suicides since January.
As reports continue to come out, our nation’s police departments respond with cookie-cutter advice and weak policy geared to make the agencies look good in the face of PR nightmares. The question: Are some simple remedial steps being overlooked by those charged with leading these men and women? Let’s step inside the box and examine this a bit more closely.
Agencies across the nation do all they can to evaluate incoming recruits to ensure they are mentally fit. As with anything, there is a degree of error and some will get through who shouldn’t. But, these are rare cases, few and far between.
Is anything done beyond that step and after graduating from the academy to ensure the officers are operating at a premium?
Do they ever get hauled in for a checkup or to be serviced?
This may sound like a silly question. It is serious enough that every piece of equipment the officers use is inspected, serviced and certified. Handguns, rifles, radar, fire extinguishers, AED’s and vehicles are all subject to checkups.
Each officer’s own skill set is frequently checked for certification from EVOC to the range and even CPR. Why is it so difficult to check out mental health issues, as well?
While there is no practical way to pull each officer in for an evaluation several times a year, there is an easy way to allow them to do this on their own. Encouraging peer support is probably one of the easiest ways to get a grip on this situation.
Allowing retired officers to act as a network of peers who can talk to these active duty officers and understand the concerns they have, creates a comfortable situation for those who need help. Officers as a whole seem to become cynical over time.
Cops are constantly listening to everyone trying to get over on them and they are constantly surrounded by the worst society has to give. They begin to believe that the world is out to get them. This feeling, while inaccurate, creates a potential powder keg for those suffering depression. It makes them very leery of coming forward.
Note that the degree of confidentiality would vary department to department due to the fact that peer support conversations do not necessarily share the same privilege as a doctor-patient conversation might. This is something all departments should work to correct.
Using outside sources of help are another avenue for officers to explore. By stepping outside of the traditional programs, officers with fears that they may jeopardize their career can seek help anonymously, early on.
Organizations like Lemonaid Health allow for officers to receive assistance via an app-based approach. Lemonaid also allows for a slew of other health services. This option provides the protections of HIPPA, the same as going through your own insurance. You can check them out at http://www.lemonaid.com or download their app in the Google or Apple store.
The world of mental health is confusing enough. Adding in the law enforcement component transforms getting mental help into an entirely new beast.
The cop-world is facing a growing crisis: suicides as a result of cops facing acute mental health issues. Myths and confusion fill the air and the department (NYPD) brass seem unaware or unwilling to correct the problem.
Recent tweet by NYPD brass after the most recent department suicide reminded officers that “… you will not be fired for seeking help,” as if that was ever a concern.
Officers know that they will not be fired but rather fear they will be passed over, unfairly grounded or commit ‘career suicide.’ While the stigma may not be 100% correct, the department has failed to get the point across to its nearly 40,000 members.
To put it simply, the politicians and the brass are too far removed to understand the plight of their street cops. Worse, they are too power-hungry and controlling to have outsiders such as me and other knowledgeable individuals effectively bring about the change which is sorely needed.
To my brothers and sisters I say: Hang on, help is out there. I represent a group of people who are navigating every roadblock thrown up by the administration. We plan to provide you with real help and solid solutions that won’t burn you.
In the meantime, I beg you to reach out early, don’t let things fester. Reach out to a friend, to Lemonaid Health, CopBlue, or me. Remember we never let a member of our family fight alone and we don’t plan on breaking that tradition now.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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