Local police discuss dangers of national officer suicide rates
MOBERLY – For the third year in a row, the estimated number of law enforcement officers who died by suicide outnumbered those who died in the line of duty, according to new data.
“Law enforcement has known for years that we are losing more people to suicide and psychological issues than we are to violence directed towards us,” Moberly Police Chief Troy Link said.
Blue H.E.L.P., a Massachusetts-based non-profit compiled the list of data this week.
At least 159 officers took their own lives in 2018. That's the same amount as 2017 and 19 more than in 2016, according to the organization’s list.
In comparison, an estimated 145 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2018, according to a report released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The Moberly Police Department said it takes proactive steps to get officers needed psychological resources.
“Once we begin to see the warning signs of either anxiety or depression, or we see the results of those as far as productivity or how they interact at work, we begin to take steps pretty early on to get those officers help through the city’s employee assistance program,” Link said.
He said his department looks for certain signs in officers to determine whether or not they need assistance.
“Change in the behavior is the biggest one,” he said.
The department looks for officers who are less productive, uncharacteristically late for work, lacking their normal enthusiasm, declining in personal hygiene, or appear tense or irritable.
“Those are warning signs, and we need to ask, ‘What’s going on? What’s changed,’” Link said.
According to Link, an officer’s mental health not only affects that single person, but a much larger group of people.
“That problem is not just for the officer," he said. "It affects the officers they're working with, it affects the department and it affects the city."
Link said it is critical to recognize and treat these symptoms early on.
In 2018, 4 law enforcement officers in Missouri died by suicide.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.