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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
In 2019, a record high 237 law enforcement officers died not because of criminals or during calls for service but by their own hands. According to Blue H.E.L.P.,1 171 officers died by suicide in 2020, and already in 2021 there have been more than three dozen such losses. A front-line officer is more likely to die by suicide than by homicide, and the number of suicides is not the only serious problem; many more law enforcement officers live with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health issues. These issues impact not only the officer’s family and agency but also the community as a whole.
The Florida Regional Community Policing Institute (FL RCPI) at St. Petersburg College, in partnership with the COPS Office, has created a series of publications and an online training that provide innovative resources for officers, their support networks, and law enforcement agency executives.
The Officer Safety and Wellness Family Support Suite includes publications developed by officers, experts, and staff at St. Petersburg College with the goal of suicide prevention and positive support for officers struggling with mental health issues:
In addition to the publication suite, St. Petersburg College has released an online training course for law enforcement officers and their families, entitled Communication in Law Enforcement Families: Promoting Mental Health and Healthy Law Enforcement Families. The training is designed to provide a law enforcement family with the tools it needs to be the first line of defense for the law enforcement officer and to keep the family and the officer mentally healthy. Information in the training allows the law enforcement family to understand the challenges that officers face daily while providing ideas and suggestions for assisting the officer as well as family members.
The publications are available at the COPS Office Resource Center, and they and the online training are available via the FL RCPI website, In Harm’s Way: Law Enforcement Suicide Prevention. Since 2007, St. Petersburg College has maintained the website and training resources to support law enforcement agencies across the country as well as to provide technical assistance and in-person training courses for agencies and families.
In today’s world of civil unrest, increased calls to defund the police, and the usual day-to-day challenges that officers face, it is important to focus on the integral need for holistic officer wellness and the collaborative support of families, friends, and agencies to maintain physical and mental health.
1 Blue Help is a nonprofit organization that brings awareness to law enforcement suicide and mental health issues.
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