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13 Days And 9 Police Officers…….

13 Days And 9 Police Officers…….

Editor’s Note:  In the first few hours of posting this article, Karen was notified of two additional suicides in this 13 day time frame. Unfortunately, the total is now “11 police officers in 13 days.”  This highlights the importance of this article and our continued work on this tragic issue. 


13 days, 9 officers dead. Their pictures aren’t going viral, the internet is not outraged, and it’s not newsworthy. None of the families will receive benefits and many will not get a funeral with honors. Their deaths will go unnoticed by the general public. Why? Because they weren’t killed by others. They were killed by the demons in their heads and society does not see them.

I see them, but I don’t see all of them. Too many are still hidden, unreported, and afraid. Afraid to acknowledge that their loves ones completed suicide. Why? Because a Facebook LEO support page recently called an 18 year veteran of the force a coward for taking his life. Because a department refuses to give a 16 year veteran a funeral with honors. Because we say “It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived,” and we lie as we say it.

If how they lived mattered, we would recognize their lives, their service and when the job contributed to their deaths.

In 2016, 143 police and corrections officers died in the line of duty, car accidents, heart attacks, gunfire. 143 officers, multiple causes of death. In 2016, 134 police and corrections offices completed suicide. 134 officers, one cause of death.

Do you see it yet?

One of our biggest problems is understanding depression. Too many believe that it can be controlled and that those that completed suicide could have stopped. It’s simply not that easy.  There are biological factors that influence the mind and often it is indeed beyond their control. When an individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they say and do things they may not normally do; their perception of reality is altered. Depression and post-traumatic stress have the same effect on a mind; people will say and do things they would not normally do and their perception of reality changes. Too often this leads to self-harm.

I am going to ask you the same question I asked hundreds of officers at a recent conference…Do you want to be the officer who finds their colleague dead after they’ve killed themselves or do you want to be the officer that helps to change things so your colleagues aren’t completing suicide?

Start the discussion and let’s make a change. Law Officer is working with 1Alliance and Wounded Officers Initiative to build HonorThem, an officer down website for suicides. We’ll recognize their service, provide resources and bring this problem to the forefront where it belongs. Help us – record suicides, tell us about your PTSI, let us know what resources have helped you throughout your career and help us raise money for training and grief counseling. Most importantly, get help.

13 days, 9 officers. Some in their uniforms, patrols cars and stations. Others at home. Make their deaths count. Don’t sweep them under the rug, lie about them or ignore them. Step forward and be courageous, get help, get your buddy help, provide your department with a culture that won’t penalize them if they need to talk to someone. Departments like the New York City Police Department and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department have policies in place to protect their officers when they need help. We all need to be more like them if we are to save the next 9 officers who are feeling suicidal.

 

About The Author

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Karen Solomon is the creator of 1stHelp- www.1sthelp.net. She is an author and the wife of a Police Officer for over 15 years. After speaking with hundreds of officers around the country, she realized that many officers didn’t know where to look for assistance. 1stHelp is the starting point. Karen is the author of 'Hearts Beneath the Badge' and 'The Price They Pay' of which the proceeds are being donated to law enforcement charities. Karen is a member of ILEETA (International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association), International Public Safety Association and the Public Safety Writers Association.

  • 380slmbz

    There are 2 that have always bothered me. One was because of a family issue. The other, i saved him once. Both worked in corrections with me. I was full time corrections and part time deputy sheriff. As a deputy, I responded to a person at risk of suicide. It was a fellow corrections officer. His name was Larry and his wife called, stating he locked himself in the bathroom with a loaded gun. I got there, and Larry recognized me and my voice. He let me in. i got the gun and took him to the hospital for a mental health exam. He got the help he needed. But a few months later, still despondent, he drank himself to death. This was completely preventable. He had been injured on the job, and Worker’s Comp took over his medical. After surgery to repair his knee, he developed an infection in his bones. Probably MERSA. He went to a dozen doctors for treatment. Then the State sent him to one more doctor. This one said he was injecting himself with feces, causing the infections. This was complete BS. But Worker’s Comp ran with it. Cut off his medical, medication and started filing a fraud case. He never was able to appeal this. The 2 doctors that did the surgery had a long list of bad surgeries. Many bad outcomes. And never did a case get through the medical board on them. They maimed many officers and inmates as well.
    That one bothers me every day.

    • I am so sorry for everything you have been through and your loses. Corrections is so incredibly difficult and I don’t believe it is something many people can understand. The challenges are like no other. I truly appreciate you sharing this story. I really hope you can find peace. If you feel comfortable, please share the stories confidentially and perhaps we can find a way to honor them. http://www.1alliance.org/record-a-suicide

    • Heather

      Wow, that is just terrible. Heartbreaking.

  • Carol Ann Breaux Sims

    These deaths could and should have come to a screeching halt by the former POTUS. He encouraged BLACK LIVES MATTER (Communist Organization) and wanted LAWLESSNESS in his plan to DESTROY AMERICA. Thank God he is OUT OF OFFICE. He is still a threat to all of America and wants to destroy our President. Remember his words, “When I leave office, I will be watching and if I think something is wrong, I will take action.” He is DIRTIER than a CESSPOOL. Why didn’t those in power VET his legality, his true Birth Certificate, and why did he pay megabucks to keep all his records SEALED? His Social Security # is that of a DEAD MAN from the 1800’s. His other name is Barry Soetoro and was born in KENYA, AFRICA. Poor Donald Trump accepted the FAKE BC. Oliar’s own brother put the first part of the real one on social media.

    • ahaz

      Forget to take your meds today? Still believe that racist birther nonsense. Perhaps you should stop reading Breitbart and watching Alex Jones YouTube channel. Bless your heart.

    • Heather

      OMG, you are truly disturbed.

  • Sharon Accettura Persall

    We continue to send our sons and daughters out into the world, ask them to witness the unimaginable, tolerate the hate, anger, and disrespect thrown at them, without the understanding that living in that world, doing that job, changes you. Some willingly accept the change, and lose their compassion and understanding. Others cling to the basic goodness of humanity, and struggle with the demons that result. Add to that ruined families, lost children, isolation, and the burden can become unbearable. Yes, we need to recognize the job changes you, and we need to call out the changes before the demons take control.

  • ahaz

    Unfortunately, the LE community is experiencing the same type of problems faced by our nation’s military forces. Mental illness is viewed as weakness and those unfortunate people suffering from it are chastise and shunned. Mental illness is not weakness and everyone of us has the potential from suffering from it. Let’s drop the macho BS and get help if you need it and get your colleagues they need.

    • Heather

      Absolutely agree. However, do be careful about using the term “mental illness.” Mental illness has a specific definition and not all mental health concerns are mental illness. But, YES, let’s stop being macho about ALL of it! Lets keep working to change perceptions and eliminate stigma. We need to get to a place where it is as ok to seek treatment for depression as it is to seek treatment for diabetes.

  • Roger Culver

    It’s time we became our Brother’s keeper. Keep an eye on your brothers and sisters to make sure they are OK.

  • Calikari

    In memory of California State Parks Ranger Steve Bier, R1196. EOW 3/29/17

  • konkhra

    Hard to live with being part of a group of domestic terrorists who rob, molest, rape and murder in a daily basis maybe? Must done something wrong and felt guilty enough to kill themselves…good riddance.

    • CrusadaB

      Creep.

  • kennybaird

    So where are the officers pictures and obits?

    • Hi Kenny, most of the pictures and stories can be found via Google. Im.not posting them yet as I’d like to be respectful to the families. We are launching a page very soon that will have pictures and details of the officers whose families have given us permission to do so. Because of the stigma attached, I prefer to clear things with the families.

  • David Stevenson

    Once you let that “black hole” suck you in; it is very difficult to find your way out.

    • Agreed, people do not realize how powerful the mind really is…too often people turn the corner where there is little hope. It’s too hard to get out. There is an unfortunate belief that people “choose” their fate or that they can help themselves if they really wanted too. It’s not that easy.

  • Ruffian31

    As someone who has had friends and colleagues over the years committ suicide, I can honestly tell you there are reasons why no one in the above mentioned professions will come forward. When an average person admits to being suicidal, there are options for treatment and no one perceives them as a risk once they complete treatment. They can still go anywhere to work and live. In law enforcement, fire fighting and EMS, if you tell anyone you are suicidal or depressed, you can face being labelled as high risk, unsafe to be around and ultimately lead to losing your job. Because our records can become public record, no one wants to have a notation in their file someone can exploit later. There are different standards than regular civilians and that has to do with the type of work these professionals do. In any of these occupations a male may not seek help for fear of being seen as weak and someone no one wants as backup. A female might be more inclined to seek help but less willing to go forth because of the stigma women can’t handle these type of jobs in the first place (and we all KNOW that’s not true). And neither gender may want to admit it for fear of losing their loved ones or their loved ones not understanding. The fear of retribution is often more scary than the penultimate act of committing suicide. It’s often said those that complete that final act don’t ever realize how much love and support they truly have around them. It’s sad to think how many may want help but getting help could cost them everything he or she has worked for. There has to be a better solution, there has just got to be.

    • I agree with everything you said. There are departments who protect the officers when they need help, we need other agencies to use their model. If we can get non-first responders help and form CIT teams to assist them, we sure as hell can find a way to protect our first responders!

    • Completely agree!

      As someone with 12yrs past FIRE/EMS service – who has battled the demons of PTSD (and only finally sought help 1.5yrs ago moments after a near suicide attempt), I know only too well ALL of the reasons we don’t come forward.

      It’s exactly why we’re on the very loud, and public mission we’re on in changing this perspective, and removing the stigma.

      I count the loss of life, and have friends and past colleagues still battling their own demons every day.

      We do it for them. For all of them.

    • R. McIntosh

      Some times the Officer doesn’t even have to mention it. If a staff member is observed “acting outside of his or hers normal professional duties of operation”, their supervisors would be notified and the clock starts then, without the staff member even knowing about it. Failure to report is a policy from the BOP. This makes the whole process even more difficult. Everything that I have read starting with Mrs. Solomon article, I completely agree with; keep the conversation going, it’s too important.

      • Ruffian31

        I agree with you completely.

  • Laurie

    Do you know a brother or sister warrior (law enforcement, fire, military, EMS/Paramedic, dispatch etc.) who is struggling with a drug/alcohol or other addiction who needs in patient treatment? Do they suffer in silence from PTSD or other trauma along with their addiction? They are not alone!

    Warriors Heart is the first private, fully licensed, accredited and dedicated 40 bed residential treatment center that is dedicated and focused on the healing of warriors.

    Warriors Heart was created “for warriors by warriors” and is located in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas near San Antonio, Texas. We have warriors come from all over the United States to heal. The staff at Warriors Heart are in this warrior class as well so when someone comes here with their own “war stories” and pain, we get it!

    You will find that Warriors Heart is not a hospital. It is a former ranch with cozy rooms, and herds of deer roaming the property along with other wildlife. Here, everyone knows your name, and everyone eats together (including the staff) in a dining room with delicious food made by full time executive chefs. There is usually a lively conversation going on at meals with everyone interacting and joking with each other. Also, clients have group therapy and individual therapy sessions. There is a lake stocked with bass for those who like to fish (and those that don’t yet know they do!), a K-9 program for training service dogs for those with PTSD or anxiety, a welding art therapy program, yoga and meditation, walking trails and peace and quiet.

    Please check our website for more information and if you or someone else you know needs Warriors Heart, reach out with a phone call or email.

    http://www.warriorsheart.com

    • Donna Salsberry

      My prayers are with the families of these 9 courageous people. Public service is true commitment to be of service to others. All to often it takes it toll on those who choose to serve. God bless them with peace . May God protect those who choose to serve.

  • As a society, we’re all too quick to discuss ‘the tragedy’ as it hits the media. The fatal car accident. The shooting. The abduction. All relevant (and, in my humble opinion, much more important than the leading story on where a celebrity dined last evening), and tragedies we should ALL be discussing when working on ideas to make our world safer.

    Why, then, are we not as quick to discuss the ‘other’ tragedy. The tragedy AFTER the tragedy. The Police or Corrections Officer. The Paramedic. The first-on-scene witness to that fatal accident. The Fire Fighter. The rape victim. Those who have just been reported to have taken their own lives. 134 in this article alone (one field, one country).

    These statistics should be cause for concern. Cause for anger. Most importantly, though, cause for action!

    Let’s get talking about this stuff, folks! Let’s ONLY be accepting of the stigma for purposes of identifying those who may be finding it more difficult today than yesterday in battling their demons, and let’s support them through their recovery.

    Thanks for this article, Karen. Be well.

    • Absolutely! And that is my mission, to bring awareness and start the discussion. The more we talk, the more we accept it. Remember the days when people whispered “cancer”? We aren’t whispering anymore! Let’s stop whispering “suicide” and “post traumatic stress”!

      • Stop whispering, indeed Karen!

        It’s our mission here in a Canada as well, and I commend you on your work. If ever we can support you in your message, please don’t ever hesitate to reach out. We’re all in this together.

        Stay strong, and be well!

    • Maryjean Thomas

      Well written Joe. This should not be “swept under the carpet”, but instead something should be done. Quite a few of these folks are retired military, who, thanks to the Vietnam vets being vocal, now get the help they need – be it by government programs, non-profits, or by other means.

      I know two living police officers, a firefighter, plus my late step-uncle and lare step-cousin were retired police officers. Here in Newport News, an officer died one month after being injured due to an accident (not sure if it was work related as I was on an errand).

      We should all be thankful for our rescue personnel – from the dispatch team to the first responders.

      • Hi MaryJean, surprisingly, of the suicides I recorded last year, only 15% were vets. The balance were career LE who do not have access to the same benefits as veterans. The first responders need to start seeing the same amount of attention that veterans are seeing with regard to suicide discussion.

      • Absolutely thankful for Vets (in both countries) who have been vocal, and have pushed for help. Sadly I feel it’s a system that is still very much lacking in effectiveness, but a work in progress at the very least.

        Unfortunately, however, our emergency services teams (from dispatchers, to a variety of levels of law enforcement agencies, fire fighters, paramedics and emergency hospital employees, correctional officers, and more) are still unwilling to seek assistance (if they even recognize it in themselves, or colleagues) due to the overwhelming, antiquated stigma that is still so much in the forefront of the battle.

        If just one more person is accepting of the effects of #PTSD in others, if one more person reaches out for help in battling their demons, and if just one more life is saved, we’re making progress.

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