WASHINGTON — A record number of current or former law enforcement officers died by suicide in 2019, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit that works to reduce the stigma around mental health issues in law enforcement.
According to figures announced by Blue H.E.L.P. on Thursday, 228 current or former officers died by suicide, compared with 172 in 2018. About 90% of those officers were male and approximately 25% were veterans with at least 20 years of service.
I’m really hoping that 2020 will be the year this turns around,” Karen Solomon, Blue H.E.L.P.’s founder, told ABC News. “I’d love to see suicide prevention receive the same efforts we put forth for traditional line-of-duty deaths.”
New York had the highest number of deaths by suicide at 27, followed by California at 23. Among those 27 deaths in New York, 10 were NYPD officers.
“The tempo for the New York City Police Department is unforgiving — job demands, financial restraints and living in New York is a challenge,” Jon Adler, the former Bureau of Justice Programs director at the Department of Justice and a former law enforcement officer in New York, told ABC News. “Officers are seeing more stressful events at a greater frequency. A sheer volume of negative memories can have a dire impact.”
ABC News reports that since Blue H.E.L.P. began collecting data, more police officers have died by suicide than all line-of-duty deaths combined.
“They say hindsight is 20/20,” Jeff McGill, a co-founder of Blue H.E.L.P., told ABC News. “2020 should be the year that we look back and realize that suicide is the biggest threat we face and we should respond accordingly.”
Learn more about the mental health challenges facing public safety professionals: