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Officer Suicide: Understanding the Challenges and Developing a Plan of Action

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2020
4 pages
This executive summary of a study by SAFLEO - the National Suicide Awareness for Law Enforcement Officers Program initiated under BJA's VALOR Initiative - presents research findings on suicide among law enforcement officers, with a focus on the challenges of addressing the major causes and the development of a plan of action for preventing it.
Presented in a format of charts, tables, and outlines, this research summary provides data on officer suicide rates for 2017, 2018, and 2019, as well as percentages on where and how most officer suicides occur (off-duty, at home, and with a gun). A table presents features of the following major causes of officer suicide: 1) traumatic event (officers witness and experience critical and disturbing incidents that can stimulate unhealthy coping behaviors); 2) stress that precipitates adverse coping behaviors such as drug and alcohol use; 3) shift work and feeling undervalued, which affects healthy social relations; and 4) the cyclical nature of stressors. Another chart presents reasons why officers do not seek help in dealing with the major causes of officer suicide. These include shame and stigma, the police culture of self-management and mental toughness, embarrassment about mental health struggles, and a lack of agency-promoted programs to address suicide causes. A chart presents summaries of what works, including building resilience, having appropriate time-off from work following a critical incident, creating an environment with supportive management/coworkers, and positive coping. A list is provided of agency practices that facilitate positive and proven coping with the causes of officer suicide.