Police at Highest Risk for Suicide Than any Profession
Why Are Police at Highest Risk for Suicide?
Heartbreakingly, suicide is an epidemic in the United States and is the 10th leading cause of death. In fact, in 2018, there were an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts. While many considerations may drive an individual to attempt suicide, including mental health and substance abuse, a profession is an often-overlooked variable.
While many professions have high suicide rates, by far, the highest risk of suicide is among law enforcement personnel. More officers die by suicide each year than are killed in the line of duty. Police suicide rates are 54 percent greater than among American workers in general. Police officers face grueling, and often unsettling, working conditions, including dangerous assignments, compassion fatigue, long hours, and mistreatment from the public. Other factors are PTSD and intense, often heartbreaking scenarios.
It is common for law enforcement personnel to report that they feel helpless at work. Many of the situations to which they respond are beyond their control to prevent, such as repeated domestic violence responses. Officers often feel a sense of isolation from the public, and sometimes their own families, since many cannot understand what they experience. In other cases, officers may feel they cannot talk to their families for fear of frightening or disturbing them.
While feelings of depression and isolation are often enough to trigger suicide attempts, they can lead to behaviors that worsen mental health. These feelings can also contribute to the risk of self-harm. Research indicates to cope with stress, law enforcement may have a dynamic that “enculturates” newer members into high-risk drinking behavior.
Alcohol is a depressant that impairs judgment, so emotional trauma, long hours, and alcohol is a recipe for depression, anxiety, and self-harm. However, there is help available. Resurgence Behavioral Health can help free you from suicidal ideation, trauma, and depression, and break the grip of alcohol and drugs.
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Effects that Influence Police Officer Suicide
Police suicide rates are often influenced by cultural factors within the law enforcement community. For instance, isolation and loneliness are known risk factors for suicide. However, emotional isolation doesn’t always entail living apart from others. Emotional isolation results from the feeling that “nobody understands” or from fear of talking about feeling out of concern for looking weak.
Police work is highly specialized, so it is common for officers to become dependent on colleagues for their sense of identity. This sense of identity can lead to a loss of other types of relationships and marital problems. This sense of identity can pose extreme challenges for officers facing retirement. These retirees may not be able to envision another way they can contribute to their community.
Law enforcement is also known for being a profession that emphasizes emotional strength and courage. This stigma can force officers who are struggling to deny their feelings or hide feelings of depression and self-harm. This struggle can lead to the phenomenon of the “sudden” suicide, in which fellow officers are shocked by the loss of an officer. Often this officer would insist that they were happy and well.
Another cultural challenge that leads to self-harm in officers is an emphasis on “black and white” thinking, where situations are “bad” or “good.” Officers can sometimes be inflexible regarding the change, or may perceive their life, community, or nation as going in a “bad direction.” Subsequently, they may feel hopeless and unable to see a brighter alternative.
When these cultural factors combine with a propensity toward self-medication through drugs and alcohol, suicide and destructive behavior becomes high.
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Mental illness and Police Suicide
Historically, law enforcement has not been a profession that emphasized emotional health as compared to physical health. Often this has been due to lack of resources as much as cultural issues within the profession. While efforts are being undertaken to address the lack of psychological support services, many officers may struggle to obtain mental health support.
As a result, self-medication becomes common, with estimates suggesting that one in four police officers has a drug or alcohol problem. And the link between substance use and suicide is clear. In a recent study of non-traffic deaths associated with alcohol, over 20% were suicides.
Even when the link between mental illness and alcohol doesn’t directly result in suicide, it does typically result in worsened mental health. The psychological consequences of addiction are often extreme, rewiring the brain to experience extreme depression, anxiety, paranoia, or anger, during withdrawal. These consequences drive the user into a cycle of addiction and abuse.
As the worsening of physical and mental health progresses, the likelihood of suicide, or overdose, becomes high. The same is true as stigma and lack of access to counseling limit healthy outlets.
Treatment and Police Suicide
Professional assistance is needed to recover from depression and thoughts of suicide. For police who have developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol or a habit of drug use, the first step is medical detoxification. This detoxification will take place in a supervised setting and may take several days, depending on the type of drug used. During this time, medical staff will be present to help prevent self-harm and to manage severe side effects.
Therapeutic drugs may also be prescribed to help manage depressive thoughts and the painful side effects of withdrawal. After substances have left the system, there are treatments available to help officers address issues of PTSD, isolation, depression, and trauma. These issues might be increasing their risk of self-harm.
Counseling and group therapies will be available to provide peer support, as well as 12-step programs, spiritual services, and exercise therapies. Also, other approaches to building physical and emotional resilience are available as well. Even if all hope seems lost, recovery can provide a new lease on life. Recovery can build the skills and relationships required to help maintain a healthier outlook.
At Resurgence Behavior Health, we are here for you. We know that you need serenity and support. And we are here to take some of the worries out of your journey to come. The team at Resurgence will communicate with your insurance provider on your behalf. We accept most PPO insurance and private forms of payment. You can even pay for your admission online.
We can help you find the financial plans and treatment plans that are best for you. Call the Resurgence team at 855-458-0050 and let your healing begin.
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How to Get Help
Have you considered self-harm or suicide? Do you feel that nobody understands? There is help available, and you are cared for more than you know. At Resurgence Behavioral Health, you will find yourself surrounded by staff who understand what you are facing to support you.
And in our safe and discrete treatment spaces, you will discover the tools to live a satisfying life, free of addiction. Today is the day that you will discover the possibilities that recovery can offer, and you will see a brighter future. Call Resurgence Behavioral Health today. You are not alone.