The N.Y.P.D. “mental health crisis” has claimed the life of another police officer, marking the 10th suicide incident (12th including retired officers) this 2019.
Authorities confirmed that the N.Y.P.D. police officer (unnamed) who committed suicide was a 35-year-old, off-duty sergeant. The officer was found dead last Tuesday around 9 PM in his home in Fresh Meadows neighborhood of Queens with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
First responders raced him to a nearby hospital; however, it was too late to save the veteran cop. The sergeant was later on pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital around 10 PM.
N.Y.P.D. Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in a statement last Wednesday: “Tragically, last night we lost another member of our N.Y.P.D. family to suicide. We vow to keep fighting this fight, to do better on these and many other fronts, and to put a stop to this epidemic once and for all.”
Commissioner O’Neill also confirmed the increasing number of suicides among police officers this 2019. There had been four or five N.Y.P.D. suicides annually for the last five years. In June, the police commissioner called for awareness towards the sudden rise of suicide amongst N.Y.P.D. police officers — noting mental health crisis as the primary suspect.
“It’s difficult for people to come forward, especially if you’re in crisis. I think that’s almost impossible,” O’Neill said. “The biggest issue is getting over that hurdle— getting over that hurdle of stigma,” the commissioner added.
In a recent white paper commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization, police officers and firefighters are much more likely to commit suicide than in the line of duty.
Consecutively, the rate of suicides for uniformed N.Y.P.D. personnel is 13.8 per 100,000 people (according to 2017 data), while for the city’s population overall, it is 6.7 per 100,000 (according to the 2016 data).
Officers and experts detail that on-the-job trauma and stress — combined with a culture of stigmatizing mental illness — create conditions that are dangerous to officers’ mental health.
Generally, suicide is affecting America’s finest, highlighting the fact that police officers are most vulnerable. Since January, there have been at least 169 officers committing suicide — including retired officers, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a non-profit charitable organization.
In a recently conducted survey, 78 percent of police officers across the country reported experiencing critical stress on the job, with 68 percent saying that stress triggered unresolved emotional issues. Additionally, 16 percent of officers said that they had thoughts of suicide.
Based on the survey done by the investigators, only 44 out of 174 police offers (or 25%) reported taking “behavioral or emotional support” from a professional. What’s polarizing, however, is that among the 44 officers who reported seeking professional help, only 28 were able to undergo the process despite the efforts of establishing centers to address mental health-related issues.
The New York City Police Department began rolling out new initiatives to support the mental stability of its officers over the last two years — including a new officer for Mental Health and a Wellness Task Force.
“To every member of the N.Y.P.D., please know this: it is okay to feel vulnerable,” O’Neill said in a statement in June.
“It is okay if you are facing struggles. And it is okay to seek help from others. You may not know this, and it may be hard to imagine, but you are not out there all by yourself,” the officer added.