According to Blue H.E.L.P., there were 173 reported officer suicides in 2020 and 239 in 2019. With the challenges that came in 2020, why are the numbers significantly lower? Were there actually fewer suicides or:
- Were fewer suicides reported?
- Are more officers asking for help?
- Has the stigma of asking for help lessened?
- Are more agencies implementing “wellness strategies?”
- Are more officers leaving the profession before they become suicidal?
Until we are able to identify the actual number of officers that commit suicide and/or the cause(s) of the lower number via credible research, we will be unable to duplicate the results.
In many cases, officer suicide is the result of acute and/or long-term exposure to horrific incidents, toxic work environment, etc. However, in many cases officer suicides are the result of choices made be the officer. Like any other human being, officers can make poor decisions concerning relationships, finances, alcohol/drugs. Choices that are unique to law enforcement would include a violation of department policy / procedure, such as use of force, driving, comments to victims and/or suspects, and body camera utilization.
If poor choices are a contributing factor to officer suicide, what can we do to assist officers in making better decisions? According to the American Psychological Association, the benefits of “mindfulness” include:
- Stress reduction
- Increased focus
- Less emotional reactivity
- More cognitive flexibility
- Relationship satisfaction
- Morality and
- Fear modulation
If officers had the ability to improve in one and/or any combination of the listed benefits, wouldn’t that help with making better decisions? Better / more thoughtful (mindful) decisions could have a huge impact on the number of officers that commit suicide. However, as with any intervention strategy, credible research would have to conducted to prove its efficacy.