Suicide makes us uneasy.
It devastates family, friends and co-workers as they ask, “Why didn’t I see it? Why didn’t he say something, How could I have stopped it?”
Those who contemplate suicide generally feel that taking their life is the last option available that can ease their pain and suffering. Our best option to prevent suicide is to become familiar with the warnings signs, as we know them.
There is no single cause for suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), it happens when a person’s stress has exceeded his or her ability to cope. And many times, this stress is compounded by depression.
Within the culture of public safety we see that the expression of stress, emotional pain or grief, is not the norm. In turn, feelings are hidden behind a tough exterior and the ability to cope becomes difficult – or impossible.
There are signals, however, that warn us that someone is unstable. They may include:
- Disregard for safety
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Increased drinking
- Talks about feeling hopeless
- Abuse of power
- Increased absenteeism
- Morbid talk of death or suicide
- Serious consideration of changing jobs
- Contemplation of self-destructive action
Suicide is a topic that needs to be addressed in order to take care of those who protect the population at large. Where does that begin? It begins within the public safety agency by changing its culture to an open minded, non-judgmental, and compassionate philosophy when it comes to mental health. One can physically train to become stronger or heal from an injury; one cannot, alone, train their mind to overcome psychological pain when the problem stems from the mind.
We encourage you as a member of public safety to seek help if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above. Or, if you see a fellow officer or first responder showing symptoms of instability, please notify your Peer Support Leader, Employee Assistance Program or immediate supervisor. The QPR Institute offers additional tips on how to speak to someone who may appear to be at risk.
The Counseling Team International is committed to ensuring the emotional health and overall wellness of public safety. For more information or guidance on how to establish a Peer Support program for your department, please call 1-800-222-9691
“Although suicide is always a complex and multifactorial, most experts feel the majority of suicides remain preventable” (Dr. Paul Quinnett, The QPR Institute)
- Paris (2010)
- O’Hara el al (2013)
- Silent Suffering: Warning Signs and Steps to Prevent Police Suicide
- The QPR Institute
- The Public Safety Peer Support Association