When I decided to attend “Building Your Character-Session 2” during Writers’ Police Academy, I didn’t realize that the instructor, Mary VanHaut, would be discussing suicide. (I should have read the workshop description.) Nevertheless, I’m glad I attended, and I think I’ll be using some of the following information in my next book.
Here are some statistics regarding suicide
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- 45,000 die each year.
- 123 die each day.
- Every 11 to 12 minutes someone dies to suicide.
- 51% of these deaths are by fire arms.
Women attempt suicide, but often the attempt fails. Why? Because women are more apt to talk—verbalize their problems and intentions. Men don’t talk about what’s bothering them.
The average age of male suicides is 45 – 54. 70% are white males.
There isn’t any good data on how many police officers die by suicide. There is data on how many die in the line of duty, but not on those who die by suicide.
What elevates the risk for a police officer to commit suicide?
Officers are trained to survive. Most have families or loved ones they want to go home to. Nevertheless, they are constantly exposed to stressful situations, and they don’t receive enough professional help to protect them from demise at their own hands.There’s the stigma of seeking help, plus the personality of police officers. Add the requirements of the job, and it all leads to an elevated risk.
- Police officers tend to be caregivers; they have a helper mindset. That’s why they choose the profession. When situations don’t go well, they take it personally.
- Some are control freaks, and the job itself often creates black and white thinking (i.e., there’s no middle ground).
- Some see themselves as superheroes.
- Some are stress junkies.
- Schedules (Too many hours on the job.)
- Fatigue (Either because of the hours they have to work or because they’ve been drinking coffee and energy drinks on the job, and they can’t sleep. Energy drinks/melatonin cycle.)
- Police administration (possibly a lack of support)
- The criminal justice system (seeing criminals go free on technicalities)
- Moral malaise (Seeing corruption within the department or seeing the dark side of humanity.)
- Disdain (Being spit on, maligned by the media and people they’re trying to help, etc.)
- Parasympathetic relationships (Developing a mindset opposed to their job.)
Many officers suffer PTS (posttraumatic stress) and CCS (cumulative career stress.)
For more about police suicide and what’s being done to prevent it, check out Chris Prochut’s websites