Five Chicago police officers have committed suicide over the past six months; the most recent of which occurred Tuesday.
The Department of Justice released a report in 2017 consistent with this alarming trend, noting that the city’s officer suicide rate was 60% higher than the national law enforcement average, NBC News reported. In response, Chicago police departments are currently working towards instituting new initiatives to help officers who might be considering the same fate.
But the reality is that the officer suicide rate is high to begin with —higher than the number of cops killed in the line of duty. Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit made up of active and retired police officers, said at least 159 officers took their own lives in 2018. That’s compared to the 145 who died on the job.
One major hurdle the group and other experts recognize in any given officer’s path to getting help is the perceived shame associated with it.
“Police officers think, ‘I’m the person that people go to when they’re having issues, so how am I supposed to call somebody else for myself?’” said Carrie Steiner, a clinical psychologist in Chicago and owner of the First Responders Wellness Center, which specializes in treating first responders and veterans.
“But they need to understand that it’s OK to get help for themselves, too,” Steiner added.
The Chicago PD plans to hire six more counselors for employees, bringing the total to 11, and will add more clergy-members to its chaplains’ ministry. The department is also expanding its peer support program in which officers help one another.