by guest author Karen Solomon
Another hero died today; his name is but a whisper on the wind. His children will walk alone to the first day of school, his daughter will not have an escort to Prom, the family will lose their house due to financial difficulties and be unable to make the payment on their health insurance benefits. Who was this hero? He was one of 297 since January 1, 2017 to die. They were Field Training Officers, School Resource Officers, Medal Winners and Officers of the Year. They were guardians of their community and gave their life to service. They are now forgotten.
Why have we cast them aside? They died by their own hand. Suicide.
His obituary read he “had a tight brotherhood within his department that loved and admired him.” Today, that brotherhood has abandoned his wife and daughters, they’ve seen no one since the funeral. His widow is battling in court to receive his benefits; his department is claiming that he died because of marital issues. They’ve ignored the critical incidents he’d been involved in the year prior to his death, they’ve forgotten that he was shot at and nearly killed 3 days before his death. Three days before he went to work and finished the job himself.
And what of the precious young boy who adored his dad? The one who now believes that suicide is his solution? The one whose Dad had post-traumatic stress and was no longer able to cope? They’ve already lost their home, his grandparents blame his mother, he’s caught in a web of destruction with no way out.
Why aren’t we helping these families? Why has the line blue line evaporated?
Are we in too much pain ourselves? Do we not know what to say? Or are we simply ignorant to the fact that these officers should not be judged by the way they died? The families crave the same treatment as any other death; support, a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, continued friendship. At the loneliest time in their lives, they want nothing more than the knowledge that they still matter.
More than 50% of the families we’ve spoken to were denied honors at the funerals, lost their benefits and have been abandoned by their departments. We don’t pretend to believe all the suicides were caused solely by the job; we do know with certainty that many were. We also know that the career was a contributing factor in many others, the inability to seek help, the fear of reprisal and the belief that police officers “are held to a higher standard”.
The chart below indicates that heart attacks are caused by the job, a physical ailment. At what point is a mental ailment caused by the job? How many more officers must take their own lives in their cruisers and at the station before we admit that these officers should not be abandoned in life, and their families should most certainly not be abandoned in death.
Is the suicide count accurate? No. We only know what’s reported to us.
In 2019, Blue H.E.L.P. will host a dinner at Police Week to honor the service of those we lost to suicide, scholarships will be awarded to children of these officers, families will meet with others that understand what they’ve been through. It’s never been done before. What greater gift to give than for you to find a way to show your support for these families? Seek them out in your community, offer them your friendship and compassion. Do what is rarely done - give them back the blue line.
If you are struggling with the stresses of the job, reach out to us by sending a message to our Facebook page. It's time to call for backup!