A Cop Reflects on Police Suicide
While I am fortunate to have a chief supportive of peer support and mental health care for peace officers, many do not. In a time when police suicides are on the rise, sadly, there is still a sheriff in my home state who denied honors to a police family because their spouse committed suicide.
While I admit that I have struggled with the proper way to honor the life of a police officer who has committed suicide, I would never be able to fathom allowing someone to die in the same manner they lived; alone and without their brothers and sisters in blue.
For many years I felt suicide was a selfish act only hurting those left behind but through training and thoughtful conversations with close friends, I have come to some closure on the topic. I’ve read this many times and it has finally sunk in. “It is not how they died but how they lived that matters.” There has to be a way where we can all agree on how these deaths can and should be honored.
With that said, we are fortunate enough to live in a time where there are endless resources for first responders who are struggling. Please, please reach out and ask for help so we don’t have to make these kind of decisions. We don’t want to have to figure out how to best honor a first responder who chose to take his or her own life. We want to see someone on the other side of whatever demons they are fighting. We want to see officers cherishing their hard earned peace and happiness. It is not easy! We can all agree on that but take the step, make the call, get the help. There are too many people depending on you, whether you think so or not.
In a very eye opening conversation last night with a friend and fellow first responder, I learned what it feels like to not feel supported, to feel you are trapped and don’t have any options.
My friend sadly proclaimed that their department did nothing to support their officers. They have an officer who sees someone shoot themself and the next day it’s business as usual.
This same officer said that they have two officers who have “tried to hurt themselves.” This is unacceptable! What will it take for some—definitely not all—to be supportive and get the help their officers need? How many suicides will it take? Is the budget more important than the officer who swore to protect your community?
Even in dire financial situations there are ways and means to show you care, to get help, to do the right thing such as allowing officers to start a peer support unit; provide funding for specialized psychological services. Furthermore, simply asking officers how they are doing when they respond to emotional calls or being involved in critical incidents would be a great start.
Here are some resources:
Dr. Tania Glenn & Associates, PA – www.taniaglenn.com
Blue H.E.L.P – wearebluehelp.org
1st Responder Conferences – 1stresponderconferences.org
Code 4 Northwest – code4nw.org 425.243.5092
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1.800.273.8255
Veterans Crisis Line – 1.800.273.8255
Copline (Law Enforcement) – 1.800.267.5463
Crisis Text Line – Crisistextline.org or text 741741
ICISF hotline (CISM team locator) – 410.313.2473
Cathy Bustos is a law enforcement officer in Central Texas. She is one half of “That Peer Support Couple” with her husband Javier. Together they are strong peer support advocates speaking about surviving critical incidents and marriage. She can be reached by email at [email protected]