Suicide among law enforcement encompasses more than the taking of the officers’ life. It involves any number of social, environmental, and individual factors that officers encounter daily. Law enforcement officers respond and intervene when they recognize the warning signs of suicide when dealing with the public, yet they are reluctant to intervene when they notice the same symptoms in their colleagues. This episode is all about a researcher trying to ascertain what the perceptions and responses of law enforcement officers were to the suicidal ideations of professional colleagues. In this show, Mike Pozesny interviews Dr. Tamra Nasworthy who conducted doctoral research on Officer Suicides and who shares the seriousness of the problem.
The success of any law enforcement officer depends on his or her ability to identify, handle, and control the stress that results from his professional obligations. Ideally, agencies should provide officers with the tools and training to resolve any event that causes the officers stress. If officers can recognize and harness these emotional responses as instructed in initial training, they may prevent injury to themselves the people around them or even death. In this episode, we study how Officers cope with stressful events. We discuss the fight or flight response which results from the individual’s automatic response to a recognized threat to survival. As a result of their training, officers must deal with critical incidents in which they must react, recognize, and confidently cope with highly stressful situations on a daily basis.
The participants for this study were law enforcement officers from various departments within the selected state that worked with an officer who completed suicide. Participants were solicited through a variety of avenues including the Fraternal Order of Police, all law enforcement organizations in the state, and other sources. Law enforcement departments were either reluctant to allow research access to data or did not collect such information. For example the state in question does not track this data at all. 40 percent of respondents acknowledged they felt the training they received was inadequate. Additional findings are discussed during the broadcast. Law enforcement officers often address their issues internally rather than externally and that makes it difficult to detect evidence of suicidal thoughts and behavior, mental illness, and depression in individuals who suffer from mental illness or self-medication.
If law enforcement officers are to survive effectively in the workplace, they must master effective coping skills that will help them deal with occupational stress. Based on the premise that officers are uncomfortable approaching departments for help, departments are potentially at risk for adverse legal action and leaving communities to be protected by officers who are emotionally unstable.