NJ’s cop suicide numbers and their main outlet for help
Carrying a badge and gun comes with pressures and scenarios that certain people just can not handle in the end, no matter how tough they may appear on the surface.
New Jersey has seen a considerable spike in police suicides over the past few years, and there are countless officers on the streets who may be unwilling to admit they're having a problem.
According to the state Policemen's Benevolent Association, 35 police suicides were reported between 2015 and 2016, compared to a total of 21 over the two prior years, NorthJersey.com reported.
"The job gives access to and exposes officers to things that most people just do not have exposure to," Mitchell Sklar, executive director of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, told New Jersey 101.5. "Like a soldier, PTSD is real and it can have long-term consequences."
New Jersey's nationally-recognized Cop2Cop helpline (866-267-2267), which connects troubled officers with retired law enforcement, has received more than 50,000 calls since inception in 2000.
The top 10 reasons for calls to the helpline in 2016, according to director Cherie Castellano:
- Marital issues
- Substance abuse
- Financial stress
- Legal problems
- Suicidal thoughts
- Medical complaints
- Family issues
After a cop's initial call, the officer is assigned a peer counselor who will follow up with a phone call at a future date.
About 2 to 5 percent of calls, Castellano said, come from cops who are "emergently at risk" and must be connected with the helpline's licensed professional counselors, who are also retired law enforcement.
"We hear many more stories of overcoming suffering than we do of people succumbing to it," Castellano said.
According to an analysis of calls into the helpline over the past several years, officers are the most stressed at the midpoint of their careers. The more "acute calls," Castellano said, typically come from an officer who's been serving for 10 to 15 years.
Sklar said the association is a strong advocate of Cop2Cop. The helpline is a point of discussion during annual orientation meetings for new police chiefs.
"The profession draws women and men who feel that they have an inner strength, that they have courage, that they are stoic and that they're able to handle what comes along," Sklar said. "Breaking down that kind of stigma attached with seeking help is probably the top of the list in helping prevent or at least reduce the (suicide) numbers."
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.