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Survivor Stories: The Real Victims of Suicide are the People Left Behind

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 27 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2003 Pages: 22-23,24,25
Melanie Hamilton
Date Published
May 2003
4 pages
This article discusses the dilemma of families of suicide victims.
More police officers die by their own hand than in the line of duty. Many agencies don’t have policies for how to handle the aftermath of a suicide. A line-of-duty death is viewed as honorable and survivors receive both emotional and financial support. But because suicide violates the unspoken code of honor that is sacred to many police officers, there is often a battle over whether to grant a police suicide a police funeral. This type of debate can cause irrevocable damage to the survivors as well as to the agency’s morale. One of the most difficult things that the families of suicide must deal with is the attitudes and ignorance of others. People often view officers’ surviving family members with pity if not outright disgust. Police officers almost always choose guns as the way to take their lives. There are several theories on the matter, all of which have to do with police culture. These theories include ready access to a firearm. Police officers are familiar with guns and, in some cases, the gun is an officer’s trusted friend. One of the major reasons of police suicide is investigation and fear of losing his or her badge. Taking a badge away from an officer in front of his or her family is very embarrassing. Some officers take their own lives because they cannot image not being a police officer. Suicide awareness and prevention programs are one way to bring awareness to agencies. Survivor support after suicide is often handled in a way that invokes anger on the part of families. It is often difficult for a police department to know how to deal with a grieving spouse that has so much anger for them.