POLICE SUICIDE AND DEPRESSION

POLICE SUICIDE AND DEPRESSION

With cops’ suicide on the rise, we must recognize they suffer from depression too | Opinion

During my stint as a Miami-Dade cop from 1960 to 1990, I personally knew 10 officers who committed suicide.

The reasons varied from cop to cop, i.e., emotional issues at home, runaway debt, alcohol abuse, fears and pressures of the job, and more. But the one common thread, regardless of race, creed, culture, or wealth, is usually related to depression.

Yes. Cops have feelings too.

The last thing they want is for top brass to know they are suffering every day inside the mind and heart. They play a role as if nothing is wrong when, in fact, too many are a walking time bomb ready to explode. Such fears are kept secret.

An article in FLORIDA TODAY on Feb. 12 cited reliable sources about the alarming increase of suicides among police officers, with 734 taking their own lives between 2016 to 2019, according to Blue H.E.L.P.

Police officers who suffer mental problems should be identified so that they can be treated by professionals. Right? Not so fast. That can also end their coveted careers. They well know that. Cops who let their emotional imbalances be known, fear being transferred to undesirable assignments, or if recommended by professionals, outright termination. Bye-bye career. Bye-bye pension.

Yes, top brass is concerned about helping the officers, but they also worry about their responsibility to the public and their own image if and when they fail to take action.

Some officers are unable to cope with the stress, thereby creating more problems. Officers know that any signs of mental imbalance could result in new unwanted assignments, or even dismissal, if such secrets were disclosed.

One homicide supervisor fought fear, fights and trepidation every day on duty. He also tried handling an array of children (three adopted), a demanding spouse, runaway debts, daily domestic conflicts, too much alcohol each evening, a mentally ill son/addict by a previous marriage, not to mention a work load which totaled over 100 investigations a year. Among his cases were the infamous McDuffie case that led to the Miami riots of 1980 and the Mariel Boatlift right after.

He thought more about the kids, the stigma they would face and the need for professional help, however secret. A counseling psychologist named Doris entered his life and triggered a year of productive therapy.

Close call.

In today’s America, particularly in large communities, police officers face deadly hatred as routine. Folks in urban areas have learned how to taunt cops in hopes of inciting bad outcomes making them all look bad. In recent years, on-duty cops have been assaulted with barrels of water over their heads as nearby cell phones formed videos. They turned another cheek and kept walking, humiliated. At some street disturbances, officers have stood at attention while subjected to hooligans embarking on foul-mouthed screaming episodes directly into their eardrums. They had orders to look away and take it.

In North Florida, two deputies quietly eating their meal at a local restaurant in Gilchrist County were shot to death in 2018 by a cop-hating maniac for no other reason than being a cop. Brooklyn, New York, 2014, same outcome as two cops were shot to death while quietly sitting in their police car. Many other senseless cop shootings have resulted in officers surviving, but it certainly makes that theater of operations a dangerous place to be.

In 2019, 134 officers died in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. In 2018, that number was 167 and in 2017, it was 176.

It’s no wonder that police suicides are on the upswing. Like most other career servants, these officers also have wants, goals and needs, and families with problems. Only, they carry a badge.

By the way, that homicide supervisor who sat in the driveway, gun in hand, was me. 

Marshall Frank is a retired police captain from Miami-Dade County, author and frequent contributor. Visit marshallfrank.com.

police officers suffer from depression too (Florida Today)

8 comments

Eileen

A candid, insightful article, Marshall. It’s no wonder that depression is a common ailment in today’s very fast-paced society; especially so for law enforcement personnel who are frequently bombarded by media criticism and by personal attacks that sometimes result in officer fatalities. For them, getting home safely from a shift is one thing, and keeping safe from themselves is yet another thing as they try to navigate through all kinds of personal and professional struggles.

Laura P.

Congratulations to you both on today’s Florida Today. Your article was very poignant, Marshall, and I’m sure will make people appreciate what police and firefighters go through. I remember, in NYC during the 60’s for some ungodly reason, the masses would shoot at fireman? What did they do but put out fires and rescue people? It was a mystery.

ROGER W RYAN

GOOD TO HEAR FROM YOU MARSHALL…ROGER

Helen Bennett

I knew you were The Man Who Mattered. You still do. Glad you are still with us.

Helen R. Frigo

Just reread your “Missing from the State of the Union Address”, from a year ago, 2-11-19. It wasn’t in this year’s either? $32 BILLION to put diapers on Astronauts and Space Tourists, to go where we’ve gone before, already leaving 96 bags of “poop” behind, and tons of other debris. Where’s the money for mental health, expanding Medicaid, etc.? The “Drug War” goes on. I see our local sheriffs are still making marijuana arrests. Since Louis Armstrong in 1930! Over 200 people dead of way stronger, newer, drug overdoses in Palm Beach County last year? What does it do to a First Responder to see a young person dead of stupidity? Didn’t you also write an op-ed about legalizing all drugs, prostitution, etc., Marshall? I didn’t see it printed in our Stuart news, and asked why. Never heard back,never quoted by President Trump, FL Republicans?
Willam F. Buckley, jr., even longer ago, had said marijana should be legalized. All President Trump has to do is take it off the list of most dangerous drugs. I remember your strong opposition to Obama. I know you are much older now, Marshall, as are so many of your supporters. But it seems to be older people who support President Trump, and maybe it is time to call him out, on what really would help keep law enforcement people safe and sane. Surely you can give him a list! Thank you

Edward A. Hensley

Great article on a great tragedy of our time; Untreated Depression & SUICIDE!
You explain the severe threat to cops who openly seek mental health care.
That same threat applies to active duty armed forces personnel, such as I was
but threat of termination is less for our military than for our police. This makes
sense as military personnel are not involved in armed policing of the civilian
public, except under declared martial law.

However, Military & Police Personnel share a common personality trait, of equal
danger, to the depressed or substance abusing cop, or active duty service member.
This trait of great danger in the depressed is more prevalent in men than women.

Western culture in general supports the LIE that it is a sign of weakness for a man
to ask for help, especially with depression, other mental issues or substance abuse.
This is a deadly LIE we must put to rest. As said in my 12th Step Program:

WE ARE AS SICK AS OUR SECRETS! I applaud Marshall for seeking mental
health care in secret, from A counseling psychologist named Doris. I applaud
Doris for helping Marshall fully recover. LE Officers now in depression, other
mental crisis or substance abuse could do well to seek help in secret.

freewoman

Thank you for this article Marshall Frank and for your ability to so realistically portray the plight of those suffering from depression and other mental illnesses. Thank you providing me with some real insight as to what our Men and Women in Blue are too often experiencing. In the future I’ll no longer find myself looking at a member of the police force as just a stalwart, i.e. “marked by outstanding strength and vigor of body, mind, or spirit”, person doing their duty but rather as a fellow person doing their level best to cope in the too often cruel and difficult society in which we all exist.

David Valdina

I have met Marshall Frank on several occasions and I write to him from time to time.  He is an author and has some very good books out.  A very good man.  And I have some thoughts to share.  Suicides are also up in the military, with those serving and those retired.  And I wonder if the kind of person who joins the military and the police force is kind of like me when I did, needing to feel strong.  And if so, could it be that the realities of the job and of life in general make this person less flexible in admitting to himself his weaknesses and being relatively comfortable with it.  All of life has it’s pressures.  The Oak has a lot of strength, but when a strong enough wind comes along, it breaks.  The Willow has not so much strength, but bends in the wind and when the storm has passed, is still standing.

My dad was a psychologist and my wife and I in the first tenor so years of our marriage read self help books, went to individual and group therapy and encounter groups.  Probably shows we were committed to making our marriage work.  Between that commitment and the outside guidance we made a wonderful marriage and life for ourselves.  That our children are still in their original marriages with squared away children of their own is in part a testament to what we gave them for their childhood.  And a testament to our parents and grandparents love and commitment.