More officers are dying by suicide than line of duty deaths. This conveys that while they’re well prepared and trained to handle critical incidents and dodge attacks and bullets, it is the aftermath that might be causing the most damage.
This course’s instructors are Jeff Thompson and Kevin Morrison. Jeff has a 16-year law enforcement career where he’s worked as a detective and hostage negotiator with the NYPD. He is also an Adjunct Associate Research Scientist at the Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology Division of the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University Medical Center. Meanwhile, Kevin worked as a civilian in law enforcement focusing on policy, research, and communications. He’s been a part of the PERF’s leadership team where he leads research and management projects for police operations.
Topics they covered on this discussion are:
- Statistics that paint a picture of how prevalent officer suicides are – the demographics most affected, when such incidents are rampant, and the reasons why officers do not seek help.
- The importance of a holistic approach to officer mental health that provides preventative/proactive programs, in the midst of crisis resource options, and a post-event effort and desire to better understand the factors surrounding these incidents.
- Looking at the coping mechanisms and barriers to help-seeking that may inadvertently lead to suicide.
- Understanding the suicidal mind – the thoughts, emotions, and experience of someone in this state.
- Debunking suicide myths to enable us to provide a better understanding and support for those dealing with suicide ideation.
- A rundown of the risk factors and warning signs we must recognize to better concentrate efforts and resources.
- Psychological autopsy: Its goals, the process involved, and what it addresses.
- The value in partnering with organizations and agencies who are implementing science-backed resiliency programs to help officers overcome the various reasons they have for suicide ideation.
- The key recommendations that stress the importance of:
- Promoting resilience and mental health through different support units and tools.
- Raising awareness constantly on the risk factors, warning signs, and the importance of proactive preventative outreach.
- Thorough data collection through amplified efforts in conducting psychological autopsy to deduce better insights on factors that surround officer suicides.
- Considering a gun removal policy for the most severe cases based on risk factors and warning signs.
- Providing both proactive and post-incident resources to the officers’ families and loved ones.
- A leadership that acknowledges and leads the conversation on the issue and how to best address it.
Questions from the audience were about:
- Working in an agency that does not acknowledge the gravity of officer suicide.
- Having that difficult conversation with individuals that we feel may be at-risk.
- Discerning for the subtle warning signs when an individual is hiding the fact that they’re struggling.
- How the current public perception of law enforcement and socio-political climate impacts officers.
- The inclusion of the sampled population for the studies.
- Training for psychological autopsies.
Resources and Handouts
- An Occupational Risk: What Every Police Agency Should Do To Prevent Suicide Among Its Officers (PERF)
- Police Officers and Firefighters Are More Likely to Die by Suicide than in Line of Duty (Ruderman Family Foundation)
- Blue H.E.L.P.
- Crisis Text Line
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- HBO Documentary: Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops (Trailer)
- This webinar presented a good overview for a complex topic. It would help to have a follow up or addition to this webinar that dives into examples of successful agency policies and practices – what these look like practically and how they work/function with ample detail. — Alisha
- A phenomenal presentation. Thank you so much! — Anita
- This is one of the best presentations I’ve listened/watched so far. Both speakers are 10/10. — Alexis
- The empathy and understanding from Jeff was fantastic — Brea
- The topic was great and to hear from experience educated speakers were invaluable. — Christopher
- Love the passion voiced in taking care of our bothers and sisters and the fact that we owe it to them (those that died by suicide) to figure out what the biggest factors were. — Deena
- This was a difficult subject that was presented well. Thank you — Delia
- I enjoyed and appreciated the enthusiasm and passion that all presenters and facilitators exhibited. I am not a law enforcement officer, rather a fire rescue officer and appreciate what the law enforcement profession is doing to attempt to coalesce data and approaches to solutions. Keep up the great work!b – FR