CINCINNATI – The death of a Cincinnati police officer, who was found in Eden Park Thursday afternoon, is under investigation, but one cause of death being looked at is a possible suicide, reported WKRC.
If his death is a suicide, it’s part of a rising number of first responders taking their own lives.
“The reason it’s so shocking is because there’s a ton of media coverage for ‘in-the-line-of-duty’ deaths and no media coverage for suicide. I think that’s part of the solution is breaking the silence and shame that surrounds this issue so that those who are struggling don’t feel alone and feel supported in seeking help,” Miriam Heyman, the senior program officer at the Ruderman Family Foundation said.
The Ruderman Foundation studied suicides among first responders. They discovered that police and firefighters take their life 20 percent more often than the general public.
In 2017, there were at least 140 police officer suicides and 103 firefighter suicides. In the line of duty, 129 police officers and 93 firefighters died.
Predictably, PTSD is a primary culprit.
For example, PTSD and depression rates among firefighters and police officers have been found to be as much as 5 times higher than the rates within the civilian population, which causes these first responders to commit suicide at a considerably higher rate (firefighters: 18/100,000; police officers: 17/100,000; general population 13/100,000), according to the study.
Even when suicide does not occur, untreated mental illness can lead to poor physical health and impaired decision-making.
In addition, the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA) estimates that approximately 40% of firefighter suicides are reported. If these estimates are accurate, the actual number of 2017 suicides would be approximately equal to 257, which is more than twice the number of firefighters who died in the line of duty.
“Bravery is part of the job, and putting other people before you put yourself is part of the job. So, I think there’s a culture within these professions that prevents many from seeking the help they need,” Heyman said.
Heyman says constant exposure to death and destruction can lead to depression and PTSD.
“We expect to see — and we do see — high rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse,” Heyman said.
One study found that, on average, police officers witness 188 “critical incidents” during their careers.
“Critical incidents are things like being involved in a shooting or being involved in a traffic accident or witnessing child abuse or domestic abuse,” Heyman said.
Heyman said those incidents stick with the officers.
“The more of the traumatic incidents these officers are exposed to, the higher the likelihood they develop depression or PTSD,” Heyman said.
Heyman said the stigma surrounding mental health keeps some officers from trying to get counseling or help for any issues they’re dealing with.
“Mental health is actually a prerequisite to work in a police department. So, many officers fear if they speak up about their mental illness, they will lose their job and lose their gun, and they’re often correct about that,” Heyman said. “It’s about providing support, making sure there are supports in place that police officers and firefighters can easily access.”
“First responders are heroes who run towards danger every day in order to save the lives of others. They are also human beings, and their work exerts a toll on their mental health,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “It is our obligation to support them in every way possible – to make sure that they feel welcome and able to access life-saving mental health care. This white paper should serve as a critical call to action to all who care about our heroes in red and blue.”
The research also describes barriers. One obstacle is denial, or avoidance. Of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the United States, approximately 3-5 percent have suicide prevention training programs.
If you’re thinking about suicide or worried about someone who might be, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to connect with a local crisis center.
You can also text the Crisis Text Line by messaging 741741. Police officers can text the word BLUE.
Law Enforcement Today has also partnered with Transformations Treatment Center in Delray Beach, Fla. In addition to a host of treatment options for the general public, they have a highly specialized treatment program for law enforcement officers, first responders and military veterans. Their highly ethical and professional program for these protectors is run by therapists who are one of us, who know us, who are retired law enforcement and military veteran.
If you or someone you know has been struggling with substance abuse issues, co-occurring mental health problems, including PTSD, please take time to learn more about Transformations Treatment Center’s programs. You can call Transformations Treatment Center at 1-888-991-9725. You can also get more details on their website at https://www.transformationstreatment.center/treatment-options/individualized-programs/first-responder/.