Mental health patients are ditching the couch and picking up their phones. Millions of Americans are turning to online apps for therapy treatment. USA TODAY
NEW YORK – An off-duty New York city police officer killed himself on Wednesday, adding to a troubling increase in death by suicides within the New York City Police Department.
The officer with more than 25 years of service, whose name was not immediately released, became the ninth NYPD officer to die by suicide this year, authorities said. Officials said he shot himself in the head at his home in Queens just after 6 p.m. He was rushed to a hospital in Manhasset, where he was pronounced dead.
The loss comes only a day after another off-duty police officer killed himself in Yonkers.
The department tweeted out the news, offering resources and support to anyone who may be struggling with mental health.
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Police Commissioner James O’Neill has declared a mental health crisis in the department amid the spate of officer suicides. He has spoken out about the problem, urging officers to seek help if they need it.
“We must make sure our cops understand the process when seeking help during a crisis – their careers don’t have to be adversely affected,” O’Neill tweeted in July, linking to an interview with WNYC radio about suicide prevention.
Miriam Heyman, who worked on a first-responder mental health study with the Ruderman Family Foundation, said that while speaking with a former Boston police commissioner, she listened to a story about a murder scene that she assumed was a turning point in the officer’s career. Rather, the incident happened only the day before.
“Trauma is a regular part of the job for first responders,” Heyman said.
Officers encounter 188 traumatic experiences on average over the course of their careers, leading to deteriorating mental health, she said. Officers often may not seek help because of cultural stigmas and because of the risk of losing their jobs.
“There’s a real fear that if they speak up they could lose their ability to carry a gun and therefore lose their job,” Heyman said.
Heyman said raising awareness and speaking openly about mental health is the best way to combat it. Media coverage helps, she said, but it’s important for police leadership speak up as well.
“There should be signs around headquarters letting people know that resources are there and that they won’t be penalized for trying to access those resources,” Heyman said.
Editor’s note: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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Contributing: The Associated Press
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