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Police Suicide

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Everyone experiences stress and any stress counselor would explain that a certain degree of

stress is essential to have a healthy, productive life. However, when stress impairs an individual's

ability to function properly, the sources of that stress must be eliminated or reduced. First

responders and Military personnel deal with varying degrees of stress daily. The bottom line is

that these men and women in these positions where they serve the public to include the nation

are not given the opportunity to admit, cope and deal with stress. Police officers as first

responders cannot afford to let stress get out of hand. Their lives, the lives of other officers and

citizens depend on their ability to effectively respond under duress.

In most organizations, there are defined cultures. This culture or subculture becomes the

normal evolution within that organization. The values, beliefs, objectives and goals of that

particular organization helps to solidify the culture. Police officers are most often guided by their

organizations culture which is generally sealed by loyalty to the organization and fellow officers.

The individuals that make up the organizational group control the organizational norms, and it is

those same individuals that determine, and can change, those norms (Kingshott, Bailey & Wolfe,


Police officers are considered to be most at risk for suicide. Police Officers around the world

deal the challenges that are a part of their jobs on a daily basis, making this profession one of the

most rewarding but significantly stressful. There is a great need for the officers to appear

strong, capable, and unfazed no matter what happens to them and often times, the media, who

portrays police officers as unflappable in the face of all crises, reinforces this idea. This is a

difficult burden to bear, and many police officers find they cannot bear under the continual

pressure. Thus, they may contemplate suicide as the only way out of their difficult and

demanding situation but if others around them can see these warning signs, they can urge the

officer to get help before it is too late.

Suicide is a major problem in the United States, not just with first responders such as

police officers but within the professional occupations as a whole. Many times our nations

professionals are overcome with the circumstances of their lives that they often times feel the

need to find some kind of refuge in order to escape.

Sometimes, a person may choose to flee from the problems in their lives by committing suicide

simply because they cannot effectively cope. Stress is a part of life and nobody lives an

idealistic, stress-free life. However, some professions place more demands on their employees

than others.

One such profession is that of a police officer. Being a police officer is by far one of the

most stressful professions in any country to include the United States, therefore it is not such a

surprise that more and more police officers resort to taking their each day. It is sad that most

police officers chose to commit suicide as opposed to seeking the help they so deserve, the

question to be asked is what can be done to decrease and prevent the suicide rate amongst our

police officers?

Police officers value the professionalism and strength of each other, due to the fact that

that one day that comrade may be the one to save them if needed. An officers daily routine is

centered on helping others, however in the event they are the ones that need to seek help, they

have difficulty it.

Police officers for the most part, almost always, have professional help available to them but

sometimes this help also comes with a stigma on that officer if seeking help is utilized in any

way. Signs of perceived weakness are often hidden or not discussed for fear of losing the

confidence or support of other officers or even worse, being removed from the job (Larned,


According to Burge, police departments are hesitant to allow the public to access any

documents relevant to the issue of suicide in the force (Violanti, 1995). The Southern Medical

Journal reported that the reason for such hesitation is the need to keep the internal workings of a

police department from public criticism and scrutiny (Horvitz, 1994). Suicide in the force may be

considered a dishonorable act. It may be seen as an insult to both the victim's family, as well as

the victim's department. Perhaps that is one reason why research shows that 67% of police

suicides in Chicago have been incorrectly listed as either a natural death or as an accident

(Violanti, 1995). Suicide rates among police officers has doubled over the past and statistics

shows that for every 2,662 officers studied, one commits suicide every 1.25 years.

What do officers commit suicide?

There are many legitimate reasons for the increased



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