Why Suicides Among Police And Soldiers Show No Sign Of Stopping

Police and soldier suicides persist. Assuredly, soldiers are under significant stress abroad and here at home. Fighting nemeses in foreign territories, while sacrificing family-time to defend our nation, undeniably exacts a heavy toll on our military service-members. Domestically, ensuring freedoms and defending constitutional rights is compatibly rife with duress, yet cops suit-up daily.

For whatever reason(s), cops and soldiers are dying by their own hands.

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Suicide may have nothing to do with service-to-nation at all; perhaps seeds of self-destruction are rooted in alternate woes such as divorce or incurable illness. Maybe a combination thereof. Nevertheless, the proverbial elephant-in-the-room subject matter festers.

I’m intrigued not because it is my nature as a policeman and human being honoring the dignity of others, but also because I looked into the recesses of a buddy’s retinas… and irreversibly missed the sign(s). The police service lost a brother in blue—a squad mate whose childhood passion was to be a cop—and my gut instincts failed to ping before he exited on his terms. For this reason, hindsight haunts me to this very moment…

The rate of police officers killing themselves has become pervasive lately. The climate in which cops operate and the constituents with which they must interact is not often an amicable one. Ambushes of cops are en vogue. Anti-police sentiment is as prevalent as sand on a beach, fanned by the media and so-called political leaders with statistics grossly skewed and facts met with blindness.

Cops endure the constancy of criticism, the barrage of berating, and maladaptive police management. Exposure to human carnage is unrelenting. First-hand horrors and traumas stick like road tar: unshakable, suffocating, hardening. Yet, they do it again and again and again…until under that uniform is a pummeled soul, silently waning until nothing is left. How best to counter self-destruction?

Quite a number of police suicides occur in or outside police facilities. Is this a testament to dying where the police world is…or because of it?

Gender-wise, more female officers have suicidal ideations than male counterparts. Why?

Dr. John Violanti, a noted author and researcher of police stress and trauma, intimated that police retirees suffer ongoing stress from traumatic episodes while in-service. Residually, some take their lives well-after their police career concludes. Did PTSD and retrospective police camaraderie combine, until implosion? Or do frayed lifelines create cause to let go?


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Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Contributor and retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit.  He is currently a researcher and writer.  This originally appeared on FoxNews.com


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1 Comment

  1. ahaz

    As former military, I’m saddened by this phenomenon affecting soldiers and LE. I think the problem lies in two areas, the lack of effective mental health treatment in the US and the pervasive attitude that mental illness is perceived as weakness instead of a health issue in both organizations. Both soldiers and LE can face similar stresses, whether its the soldier facing multiple deployments or the officer deployed in high crime areas. A person can only remain in hyper-vigilant state for so long before it will impact him negatively. Leadership at both organizations should recognize this and treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves.

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