This is going to be a difficult article to write and an even more difficult one for you to read. But if we don’t talk about controversial issues and if we don’t shine the light in the dark corners, we risk ignoring major problems within our Blue Family.
Let’s start with some statistics: in 2017 there were 129 Line of Duty Deaths in the United States and there were 140 reported police suicides. In 2017, 44 police officers were killed by firearms. That means that you are three times more likely to die at the hand of your own pistol than a turd’s.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, that number is probably much higher because we all know that police suicides are under reported nationwide.
Whenever an officer dies in the line of duty or from suicide, we make sure the family is taken care of and that the officer is treated with the utmost respect at his/her memorial service. However, there is an interesting diversion of paths following the funerals. In the case of a line-of-duty death we often attempt to learn from the experience of what transpired and the brave sacrifice of that officer will often spur conversations and training for years to come. In the case of a suicide we clam up and talk about nothing.
You see, there is a stigma attached to police officers asking for help. We are here to solve everyone else’s problems so surely we need no help conquering our own demons. But, believe me, we have demons, because the stresses of this job can eat us alive. Between seven and 19 percent of current police officers have PTSD. We see more horrific things in one day than a normal human being will see in a lifetime.
The stress of the job and the side effects of it manifests itself in different ways. Police officers are five times more likely to abuse alcohol, we are 10 times more likely to suffer from depression, and 19 times more likely to commit suicide than the general public. Think about that for a moment – you are 19 times more likely to commit suicide than your neighbor the accountant.
I write all of this to show you just how troublesome this problem truly is to our Blue Family. All of you right now are thinking of an officer you know who committed suicide, but yet we never talk about it. We can no longer ignore this silent killer living in our midst.
So, what can we do?
We can talk to one another. We can be our brother/sister’s keeper. We can look out for warning signs that someone we care about is going through a rough time. But we summon the courage to talk to that person and offer them help. We cannot shrink from difficult conversations with our friends and co-workers.
If you believe someone is going through a rough time, talk to them and let them know there are people here to help them. You can recommend the Houston Officers Peer Assistance (HOPA), staffed by highly trained, retired HPD officers available 24/7/365 at 832-200-3499.
You can recommend they make an appointment with HPD Psychological Services at 832-394-1440.
You can recommend they call COPLINE: A National Law Enforcement Peer Assistance Hotline at 800-267-5463.
There are countless other resources out there available to anyone that needs them. The worst thing you can do is say and do NOTHING. We can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch one of our brothers or sisters take their life, when one of us could have prevented it simply by talking to them.
Finally, if you happen to be reading this and suffering through depression or you are having suicidal thoughts, PLEASE CALL SOMEONE RIGHT NOW – anyone – and talk! A friend, loved one, co-worker, neighbor, peer support line or call me at 832-283-9492.
Just know that you are not alone. You do not have to suffer in silence. You do not have to internalize your pain. You have a family of 5,200 brothers and sisters who at the drop of a hat would help you if you asked.
As always, be safe out there and if you need anything I am only a phone call away, text (832-283-9492), or you can also reach me at the following: email (email@example.com), messenger on Facebook, DM on twitter (@JoeGamaldi).