According to the FBI, in 2019, 89 officers across the nation died in the line of duty. Comparatively, the “blue help” organization reported more than 200 officers died by suicide in that same year.
Both circumstances are heartbreaking, but remind us, officer mental health is so important. That’s the next part of the series “The Suicide Crisis: Prevention, Information, and Awareness.”
The job will change you.
We see child deaths, we see adult deaths, we see car wrecks. We deal with all the bad parts of society that most people never have to deal with.Sergeant Tim Williams, Jasper County Sheriff’s Office
The things law enforcement officers see everyday are considered secondary trauma and emotional stress.
Debbie Fitzgerald who’s the Freeman Ozark Center Director of Crisis Services said “It’s a high-stress, it’s a high-adrenaline job that you have to separate yourself from what you see, because it’s not what others see everyday.”
Sgt. Tim Williams continues to say “We are at such a high state of hyper vigilance. All the time, on every call we go to. We were talking about even when we go get gas for our vehicle, we are still in a high state of hyper vigilance.”
Sometimes they forget that they are vulnerable and that they emotionally distance themselves while they’re out doing their law enforcement work.Debbie Fitzgerald, Freeman Ozark Center Director of Crisis Services
Sergeant Tim Williams and Debbie Fitzgerald are co-chairs of the local crisis intervention training for officers.
Sgt. Tim Williams says “Having some mental health issues or having some suicidal thoughts, we go and deal with them in the proper manner and get them transferred to the area that they to, to get help.”
While officers are well-educated to handle others in a mental health crisis, they can’t forget about themselves.
There’s so many of them that’s like, ‘Oh, I have this hobby and this hobby.’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, when is the last time you’ve done it?’ And it’s like they haven’t done it in a long time. It’s say it’s not a hobby anymore; it’s a memory. So, you know, you need to be able to go do those hobbies because that is a stress reliever.Sgt. Tim Williams, Jasper County Sheriff’s Office
Because of the stress, recent statistics show there were more officer suicide deaths than line of duty deaths in 2019.
Debbie Fitzgerald says “It was the highest ever in 2019 at 228 officer suicides. In 2020, so far, the rates dropped 30%. So, we can be cautiously optimistic.”
Law enforcement officers support each other, but it’s that community support that’s also so important when they’re off the clock as well.
Sgt. Williams encourages police officers as well as civilians to look out for one another and if you see a fellow officer that you think is having a bad day or having some problems, reach out and be that helping hand for them.
By having the public support, Sgt. Williams says it’s less stress on the officers and it goes a long way.