Page 6 - Volume 28 Number 2
P. 6

 The Police Officers Journal
  6 • SPRING 2018
2017 police suicides expected to
— By POJ Editor Jennifer Gomori with excerpts from, Lansing State Journal & other media reports
 Ahigh number of suicides among law enforcement officers in 2017 has reversed what was hoped to be a declining trend. There were 102 self-inflicted deaths identified, but suicides for the year are really expected to be 140, according to a lawofficer. com article.
That means law enforcement suicides are anticipated to surpass the 128 reported 2017 line-of-duty deaths. uses a mathematical formula to calculate suicides that are hidden by agen- cies or misreported. Many cases are expected to be publicized as further reports come in 2018.
Tami Hough, of Hough Counseling Services in Troy, said there are many reasons why officers don’t seek help, but at the top of the list is fear of losing their jobs. Instead of getting help, officers often develop substance abuse problems to escape depression. Drugs and alcohol can be a quick fix alternative to counseling, she said, espe- cially when they don’t feel they can discuss mental health issues with co-workers.
“The problem that’s happening is Police Officers are afraid to go to supervisors because the fear is that if they’re having problem with alcohol or substance abuse ... there’s the possibility they’ll be asked to go on disability or resign,” said Hough, whose agency works with Cops Trust to provide members with confidential counseling ser- vices with no co-pays or deductibles. “They end up in depression, relationship problems, job stress and they don’t want to look bad to other officers.”
But department mandated counseling doesn’t provide the confi- dentiality officers need to feel safe discussing their mental health issues, she said. “You want them to be able to trust their counselor,” she said. “A work mental health evaluation will have information in there on whether they have some type of mental health issues and will go to the employer. If that’s something that is ordered, they won’t want to work with a therapist because they’re concerned about losing their job.”
It’s ironic that the close-knit nature of law enforcement seems to exclude discussions about normal reactions to very traumatic situa- tions they experience together. Seeing the aftermath of homicides, deadly accidents, and crimes in progress are among the events of- ficers may experience multiple times during their career.
“They have the camaraderie, but there’s definitely that stigma there if they ask for help, something is wrong. They don’t want to be shunned by their peers if they’re having trouble with something they’ve seen,” Hough said. “It doesn’t mean if you need help you’re weak or you can’t do the job necessarily.”
When an officer is unable to save someone’s life or the crime scene involves the death of a child, it’s easy to understand the last- ing impression on their mental health. “Officers have committed
  suicide if they were unable to save a life,” Hough said. “They’re in a constant state of adrenaline and wanting to save people and they see a lot of different things we don’t see. Everybody reacts differ- ently to situations too, especially when they’re dealing with children. That’s pretty intense if they can’t save a child. Their job is to serve and save people and protect. If they can’t do what they’re trained to do, they’re going to take that on as dire.”
Like doctors, Hough said, “They have to understand sometimes you can’t save a life.”
The Badge of Life, a non-profit organization which has been track- ing police suicides since 2008, reports an average of 130 deaths for each past year studied, according to Based on avail- able figures, the average age for a police suicide was 42 years and 96 percent were males. Twenty of the 2017 suicides were Command officers and the rest were officers and deputies. Guns continue to be the primary means of committing suicide with three overdoses, one poisoning and two hangings reported.
The Badge of Life study includes only fully sworn “police officers,” not other law enforcement, such as: retirees, separated officers, animal control, wildlife, reserve officers, prison/corrections, and more. Some of these occupations are studied and/or included by organizations like Blue H.E.L.P., which as of March 15, had listed 154 “verified suicides” in 2017 and 21 so far in 2018 on their website. The non-profit works with Badge of Life to publicize suicides and has an online form by which families and associates can submit their cases.
Hough has counseled Police Officers and other public safety em- ployees with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car acci- dent, or sexual assault, and depression which affects many in these careers. “Police Officers actually experience PTSD in a similar way as military officers,” Hough said. “They encounter the same kind of things in their career that soldiers do — deaths, shootings (even with automatic weapons). They are, in a sense, in a battle when out on the street.”
To reach Hough Counseling Services, visit www.houghcoun or call (248) 528-0157. Cops Trust members will receive waivers of co-pays and deductibles.
Safe Call Now is a confidential, comprehensive, 24-hour crisis referral service for all public safety employees, all emergency services personnel and their family members nationwide. Make a Safe Call Now at (206) 459-3020 or visit

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