Shining a spotlight on 'Blue Suicide' can help save lives

Shining a spotlight on ‘Blue Suicide’ can help save lives
By: Robert Foreman

Suicides among members of law enforcement are continuing to spike at an alarming rate. Recently, the NYPD has been forced to make plans to implement an overhaul of their suicide prevention protocols after four officers took their own lives in June. However, it is believed that less than 10% of the police departments in the United States have a suicide prevention program. Of course, suicide among members of law enforcement, and other first responders, is not a recent problem. By June of 2019 there had been well over a hundred confirmed suicides among first responders, but it is estimated that it could be higher. Imagine what that number could be by the end of the year.

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The recent suicides of multiple NYPD officers helped to shine the public spotlight on the emotional and mental issues facing first responders. Much of the public is justifiably shocked when a first responder takes their own life. However, much of that shock comes from people who view first responders, especially law enforcement, as indestructible and larger than life. Yet they are flesh and blood people just like everyone else. They deal with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, divorce, and a myriad of other issues that the rest of the population deals with. 

According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and firearms account for 50% of those deaths. The suicide rate is highest among middle-age white men. Additionally, men are more likely to take their own lives than women. The AFSP also states that there are 129 suicides each day. Those numbers may seem shocking to most, but for anyone who has lost a friend or family member to suicide those statistics seem all too real.

For those who are considering suicide as an option, you should think twice. Once you go through with it there is no going back. Death is final. Additionally, suicide leaves a ripple effect that goes far beyond a person taking their own life. The family, friends and co-workers are left with a myriad of emotions to deal with, including anger, grief and guilt. The anger is often directed at the person that took their life while the grief comes from the untimely loss of the individual. Ultimately, those who are left behind often find themselves feeling guilty because they believe that they should have done something to prevent the suicide from happening. Having lost someone I love to suicide, I went through all of those emotions.

So, for anyone who is considering suicide as an option just remember that suicide doesn’t solve your problems. It just shifts the burden to your loved ones. No matter what you are currently going through, no matter how bad it is, you must remember that your life is of value. True, life can kick you in the ass and beat you down until you feel like you can’t take anymore. However, things can, and do, get better with time and patience. 

Many people, particularly in law enforcement, don’t want to reach out for help because they believe that it makes them look weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. Talking to a trusted friend, or a trained professional, about the pain that is weighing on you is a sign of strength. It means that you recognize that you can’t carry the burden of all of your problems by yourself.  Nobody expects you to be Superman. Hell, even Superman has his ‘kryptonite’ and he always has to get assistance when he encounters it.

Depression is a real problem and you should find someone to talk to about it. Just because you carry a badge and a gun doesn’t mean you need to battle your demons on your own. If you feel uncomfortable talking to a family member or friend there are plenty of other resources. One such resource is the ‘Blue Suicide Dinner Night’being held on August 1, which is being co-sponsored by Moment of Silence and The Blue Magazine. The event, which is free to officers, will bring together both active and former law enforcement professionals to help combat the issue of ‘Blue Suicide’. The dinner will be held at The Village Inn located at 422 Runnymede Drive, Wayne, N.J.

“We need to discuss the suicide epidemic to tear down the negative stigmatism. The more we open up, the more we realize that we need to rely on each other by opening up at a time of crisis,” said Daniel Del Valle, owner of The Blue Magazine. “A conversation ends up with a smile and a smile may lead to a laugh, which leads to trust. If you laugh with someone then you can build trust and it all started with a conversation.”

If you are currently in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For those who are more comfortable using text you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741741. Remember, there is no shame in asking for help when you need it. Simply put, the life you save may very well be your own.