New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill declared a “mental-health crisis” Friday evening after three officers committed suicide in a 10-day span,
The most recent death occurred Friday afternoon.
“In less than 10 days’ time, the NYPD has lost three of its own to suicide,” O’Neill said in a statement. “This is a mental-health crisis. And we – the NYPD and the law enforcement profession as a whole – absolutely must take action. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
This is a mental-health crisis. And the NYPD & the law enforcement profession as a whole absolutely must take action. We must take care of each other; we must address this issue — now. Please take my statement below to heart & help yourself, your loved ones, & your colleagues. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/urHuzIiiFb— Commissioner O'Neill (@NYPDONeill) June 15, 2019
Steven Silks, a 62-year-old deputy police chief, shot himself on June 5 and Detective Joseph Calabrese, 58, went missing the day after and was later found dead. The latest officer to commit suicide has yet to be identified. The deaths bring the total number of suicides in the NYPD to four this year.
O’Neill urged officers struggling with mental health issues to reach out for help, saying there is no shame in doing so.
“Cops spend so much of their days assisting others. But before we can help the people we serve, it is imperative we first help ourselves. There is no shame in seeking assistance from the many resources available, both inside and outside the department,” he said. “Accepting help is never a sign of weakness – in fact, it’s a sign of great strength.”
O’Neill went on to list a slate of services both by the police department and independent operators.
In 2018, 159 police officers in the U.S. killed themselves, according to the nonprofit BlueH.E.L.P., while 144 died in the line of duty.
A 2018 study from the Ruderman Family Foundation also found that police officers are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, noting that barriers “including shame and stigma” prevent many from seeking help.
“These same barriers prevent families from talking openly about the suicide of a loved one, thereby contributing to silence and lack of awareness around the issue of first responder suicide,” the study found.