Ten.  That’s how many lives of NYPD officers have been lost to their own hands in 2019. 

The latest happened in Queens, and he apparently sought help from the department before taking his own life.

Sgt. Linhong Li was only 35-years-old.  Sources told The New York Post that he’d been in touch with the NYPD’s Early Intervention Unit before Tuesday night.

That’s when it’s been reported that he shot himself in the head inside his home on 178th Street in Fresh Meadows.

“They were in contact with him,” The Post reports being told by a source.

The paper says it’s not clear if Li looked for help on his own, or was referred to it by another officer.

“It’s like the first step to getting help,” said the source of the unit.

That unit’s role is to help both cops and civilian department employees to work through the problems they are dealing with.

Yet the assistance came too late for the 7-year veteran. 

Li was assigned to upper Manhattan’s 24th Precinct.  His death made 10 suicides this yearnearly doubling the annual departmental average of five.

“I saw the wife. She was screaming at the door,” said Fabio Acquista.

Fabio runs a restaurant next door to Li’s home, and spoke about the moments after the tragedy was discovered at around 8 p.m.

“Out of nowhere, maybe 30 cops stopped by,” said Acquista, 31. “Then I just heard them shouting, ‘Bring him to the bus!’ The ambulance was just pulling up and they brought him inside [it].

He said they did everything they could to save him.

“They tried to resuscitate him for 15 to 20 minutes,” Acquista added. “You could see them pumping his chest.”

So far, no suicide note has been found offering insight as to why he did it.

But in an online remembrance, a woman who called herself a friend claims Li’s wife said he had been “bullied” on the job.

“She called me and said, ‘I love him more than anyone, and I found him,’ ” wrote Yulia Yakovleva-Yang on Facebook. “ ‘He was happy at home, they bullied him at work.’ ”

In his own online post Wednesday, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill promised to continue fighting the issue striking at the heart of his department.

“Tragically, we have lost another NYPD member to suicide,” he tweeted. “We’re taking great steps to end this mental-health crisis, and we vow to always keep fighting Please take care of yourselves and regularly check up on your colleagues and loved ones. #StopSuicide.”

There are a number of new initiatives urging cops to seek help inside NYPD.  One such endeavor is an app on department-issued smartphones linking to emergency mental health services.

Yet many who work in the department or retired from it say there’s nowhere near enough being done to help troubled cops.

 “At this point, this is an epidemic and it’s getting worse,” said one source to the New York Post. “Something needs to be done.”

That same individual suggested officers have a requirement that they meet with a psychologist once a year to cope with both the stresses of the job and everyday life.

“We see things that people read in the paper, but you gotta remember, a cop is living that,” said the insider. “Plus, you have stuff going on at home.”

Another source spoke to the Post about “a phenomenon called suicide contagion”.  They suggested it’s not unlike the way a communicable disease spreads from person to person.

“Once you hear somebody does it,” suicide might make sense as a solution to your own problems, explained the individual.

“The cause is depression, mental illness, but a breakup, problem at work, family issue, that’s a trigger,” said the source.

That individual who also noted cops’ access makes it easy to take their own lives.

“Cops obviously have access to a gun, whereas the general public doesn’t,” said the source. “If you’re depressed, even just for a couple of seconds, you can reach for a gun.”

Other groups are working hard to convince officers they aren’t alone – and that the real problem is the stigma associated with asking for help.

“If you report some kind of mental issue, depression, you lose your gun,” said the source. “You lose your assignment.”

In the meantime, there’s a slow grind happening towards finding a solution… all while officers deal with THEIR daily grind.

“Some people deal with their own situation, then they come to work and they have to deal with somebody else’s situation,” the source said. “It takes a toll on you.”

In the meantime, a retired NYPD detective laid his feelings about the department on the table:

It’s roughly 8 PM when a woman walks into her house to discover her life has changed forever. At 8 PM she walked in on her husband, fallen victim to the demons that far too many in law enforcement face. A quiet street in the borough of Queens is the backdrop of a massive first responder response to her calls for help.

Unfortunately, no help could be provided in this case.

Officer Li was 35-years-old when he took his own life in his Queens apartment. (NYPD/Flickr)

 

WE NEED TO LEARN THE SIGNS, BREAK THE STIGMA AND SUPPORT EACH OTHER

Just days after it was reported that Co-Mayor Charlene McCray’s “Thrive NYC” had turned a blind eye to a Chinatown church looking to hold a mental health seminar, NYC has again been dealt a devastating blow. Recently, Thrive NYC backed out of a mental health seminar being held for law enforcement officers, due to the involvement of pro-police social media organizations. Are these just a series of strange coincidences of an unfortunate city program, or is the truth just finally unraveling?

Ever since it was reported that the NYPD has been struggling with a massive increase in officer suicide, far greater than the national increase of 24 percent, several private organizations have offered their assistance. Even I have offered to sit down with the powers that be to attempt to get a handle on the problem.

For our kind gestures, we have all hit the same dilemma; NYPD brass essentially told us,

“We don’t need any help, thanks for showing us, but we will do it ourselves.”

It’s the same thing that happens when you approach them about technology… they simply feel that they can do it on their own. No wonder the stigma is so hard to break in NYPD, it’s in their DNA.

After one such meeting, the department decided to institute a policy that requires officers to log into a department program and take a digital assessment of mental health. The NYPD widely publicized the program as its way of getting out ahead of the problem. But the truth is that they’re even further from a solution than when they started.

The program they came up with is impossible to fail; a program that forces you to pass in order to get your certificate. It’s program that notifies you when you select the wrong answer and requires you to select new answers until you get it right. The NYPD has created another situation where they can show that their members are trained, certified, or okay to give them the free pass when things go horribly wrong.

 

Hope is available. You’re never alone.

Let me introduce you to New York Law Enforcement Assistance Program (NYLEAP). A NY-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose services are offered at no charge to individuals who serve as first responders (i.e. law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, correction officers, and dispatchers).

Did you know that Law Enforcement Today has a private new home for those who support emergency responders and veterans?  It’s called LET Unity, and it’s where we share the untold stories of those patriotic Americans.  Every penny gets reinvested into giving these heroes a voice.  Check it out today.

 

NYLEAP was created by peers for peers and after serving over 40 years of combined first responder service, it became apparent that there was a huge void when it came to law enforcement and first responders mental health. The statistics continue to grow at alarming rates when it comes to deaths by our own hand. PTSD, substance abuse disorders, and other mental health conditions are caused by the day-to-day stress and trauma that comes along with doing the job. In 2018, the number of reported deaths by suicide – in law enforcement alone – outnumbered the line of duty deaths, and that number does not include suicide attempts.

NYLEAP’S goal is to provide training throughout New York State for officers and all emergency responders to become peer trained and ready to assist within their own agencies and throughout the state when called upon.

 

They look forward to providing effective peer-based Post Critical Incident Seminars (PCIS) in conjunction with other LEAP programs (SC, NC, VA, WV, OH, OK, OR, AR, TX) throughout the country.To register for the upcoming Critical Incident Seminar in December click the link.

NYLEAP struggles to get funding from NYS for programs that it runs.

They turn no one away and function on a 24/7 schedule, providing more for mental health awareness than the “Thrive NYC” program, which boasts a price tag of $850 million in taxpayer funds.

Funded mainly by small donations and a sense of greater good by staff, NYLEAP is there to help. If you’re looking for assistance for yourself or an agency trying to get a real handle on the situation they are here for you.

Feel free to follow the link to their December seminar series and I’ll see you there, together we can fight this.

We spent a career doing everything in our power to stop evil from hurting our partners, ourselves and those we are charged to protect, it’s about time we take the steps needed to stop ourselves from falling to the demons that haunt us.

 

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