Many Americans may not know that suicide among police officers is at a rate higher than any other profession in the nation. In fact, the number of police suicides is triple the amount of officer fatalities in the line of duty. In our general population, 13 of every 100,000 people die of suicide as opposed to 17 of every 100,000 police officers. In 2018, 167 police officers committed suicide and in 2019 the number rose to 228. Among the reasons given are, exposure to intense stress and human devastation.
California, Florida, New York, and Texas experience the highest numbers in the nation of officer suicides. In 2018, each state reported at least 10 officer suicides. In 2018 James O’Neill, the NYPD Commissioner declared a mental health crisis due to the amount of suicides by his officers. Chicago has the second largest police force in the nation with over 13,000 officers, and a suicide rate 60 percent higher than the national average for law enforcement. In July of 2019, President Trump signed the bipartisan Supporting and Training Officers in Crisis Act which was sponsored by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo). According to the STOCA, “The legislation restores grant funding for law enforcement support services and allows grant recipients to use funds to establish suicide-prevention programs and mental health services for police officers.” whitehouse.senate.
As young as the year 2020 is, 15 officers have committed suicide. Of the 14 names that remain anonymous at https://bluehelp.org/ Officer Phillip High of the Hoquiam Police Department in Ocean Shores, Washington is the one officer suicide who’s name is known. By all accounts Officer High was an exemplary officer and citizen of his community. A GoFundMe page created for his family states HIgh “lost his battle with PTSD and took his own life.”In March 2013, officer High was involved in a shooting when a resident was being served a felony real estate warrant. The incident turned into a 20-hour standoff with Sgt. Jeff Salstrom who High was with being wounded, and the suspect being killed by SWAT officers.
Deputy Kevin Levi of the Pinellas Country Sheriff’s Department was found at his home by fellow officers where he died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on January 28, 2020. The Tampa Bay law enforcement community has been dealing with a rash of police suicides. On Saturday, February 1, Deputy Carlos Felipez committed suicide. Around 1:00 a.m. on the day of the incident police were answering a call about a gunshot sound and to do a welfare check when they found officer Felipez dead in his backyard. Felipez was the third first responder to commit suicide in two weeks.
When PTSD is discussed it usually centers around our military men and women, but, according to the national Alliance on Mental Illness roughly 19 percent of police officers deal with symptoms of PTSD. In contrast, 3.5 percent of the general population have symptoms of PTSD. On a daily basis police officers deal with the most egregious situations. Any given call for help can lead an officer to experiencing death, assault, abuse, neglect, and even fighting for their own lives.
The culture in and surrounding the police officer community is one that doesn’t project weakness. Fellow officers and even close relatives may not know an officer is dealing with PTSD. Friend and veteran officer Edie Darling says it best in her video that is attached to this article, “Sometimes the rescuer needs to be rescued!”
Obituary for Deputy Carlos Felipez:
Authors Note: Edie Darling is an Author, Veteran Police Officer, Former Senior Chaplain in the Department of Detention and Corrections, true Humanitarian and Spiritual Leader whose mission of peace transcends all religions; resonating with people of all race, gender, political affiliations and social economic status. You can view her video about first responder suicides below.