Police Officer Suicide

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Police Officer Suicide: An Overview Michael D. Evans Ryokan College PSY631 Bereavement Counseling Nancy Willinger, MFT, Psy.D. Suicide is a taboo in our culture. It is categorized as a socially disenfranchised death and qualifies as a “socially unspeakable loss” (Rando, 1993). It is something, as a society, we have great difficulty talking about and facing. In police culture, it is more powerfully stigmatized and viewed as a “coward’s way out” (Dahl, 2010). Dr. John Violanti highlights this perspective: "...police officers traditionally subscribe to a myth of indestructibility; they view suicide as particularly disgraceful to the victim officer and to the profession" (1995). What are the facts, impediments to treatment, and potential warning signs of police officer suicide? What is being done in our police departments to address this issue? What are potential solutions? Despite the stigma a police officer is more likely to die from suicide than in the line of duty (Violanti, 2008). Retired officers also suffer a high rate of completed suicide (Violanti, 2008). The rate of police officer suicide is three times the national average (Lindsey & Kelley, 2004). In the United States, the most common and successful method of suicide is by fire arm (CDC, 2009). Police officers have ready access to fire arms. 90 percent of officer suicides are committed with a fire arm (Honig & White, 2009). Denise Jablonski-Kaye highlights this: “Being a police officer is so convenient to suicide. They have the solution right on their hip. They can end the pain and suffering very quickly so they reach for the solution” (Watkins, 2009). It is difficult to get accurate statistics on officer suicide because many are labeled by departments as “accidental discharges” or “accidental deaths” in order to maintain survivor benefits for the family and to avoid the
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