It will take us several months to review our data and profiles of cases, but one thing is already clear: police suicides in the United States took a noticeable drop in 2012. We are the first group to track police suicides on a scientific basis and this is the first reduction we have seen since we began monitoring them in 2008. This is encouraging news that we tentatively attribute to the increased number of departments adopting peer support programs and the increased willingness of officers, many of them younger, to seek professional assistance—not only when they have a problem, but before problems develop--through things like "mental health checks" (see below). Other factors may be involved, as well, and we will keep you advised through our newsletters, website and, of course, the final published study. Our studies show the following:
2008 police suicides: 141
2009 police suicides: 143
2012 police suicides: 126
Profile of suicide cases:
Average age, 2012: 42
Average yrs on job: 16
Some additional data from the study that might be of interest to you includes:
91 percent of suicides were by males.
Ages 40 – 44 were most at risk.
Time on the job: 15 – 19 years were most at risk.
63 percent of suicide victims were single.
11 percent of suicides were veterans.
This national study of police suicides (NSOPS) was a massive undertaking, requiring the review of almost 50,000 emails, the monitoring of news and websites and the voluntary contributions from many of you in the field. In spite of this encouraging news, the fact is that police suicides continue at a rate much higher than the number of police officers killed by felons. This alone reminds us of the need to redouble our efforts, not only at suicide intervention, but on the maintenance of mental health in law enforcement. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the officer whose mind is on other problems, be they at home or at work, is a danger to himself and other officers who are relying on him. Much remains to be done.
Like the 2008 study, the 2012 study will be published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health (IJEMH) and will be available in the spring.
See below for more information on annual, voluntary "mental health checks" and suicide prevention.
The Badge of Life Police Mental Health program is more than suicide prevention--it's about officer safety and a long life.
These important steps apply to all emergency responders--police, firefighters, medical and dispatchers.
Saying, "Get help when you need it" isn't enough any more. We need to say, "Get help BEFORE you need it.”
It's preparing you for trouble before you get into crisis.
It's voluntary. Like seeing the doctor or the dentist once a year, it's seeing a therapist of your choice to review the past year, look for vulnerabilities, build on your strengths, and develop a set of tools you can turn to when you DO need help!