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NSOPS Police Suicide Study

 A study of Police Suicide Statistics

 

by

Ron Clark, RN, MS, Connecticut State Police (ret.)

Andy O’Hara, California Highway Patrol (ret.)

A Badge of Life Police Mental Health Foundation article

 

January 4, 2013

 

Badge of Life has completed its annual survey of police suicides.  Known as NSOPS (National Study of Police Suicides), this is our third in a series of studies that began in 2008. 

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It will take us several months to review our data and profiles of cases, but one thing is already clear: police suicides took a noticeable drop in 2012. We are the first group to track police suicides on a scientific basis and this is the first reduction we have seen since we began monitoring them in 2008. This is encouraging news that we tentatively attribute to the increased number of departments adopting peer support programs and the increased willingness of officers, many of them younger, to seek professional assistance—not only when they have a problem, but before problems develop (through things like annual "mental health checks"). Other factors may be involved, as well, and we will keep you advised through our newsletters, website and, of course, the final published study. Our studies show the following:
 
2008 police suicides: 141
2009 police suicides: 143
2012 police suicides: 126
 
Profile of suicide cases:
Average age, 2012:   42
Average yrs on job:   16
 
Some additional data from the study that might be of interest to you includes:
 
91 percent of suicides were by males.
 
Ages 40 – 44 were most at risk.
 
Time on the job:  15 – 19 years were most at risk.
 
63 percent of suicide victims were single.
 
11 percent of suicides were veterans.
 
This national study of police suicides (NSOPS) was a massive undertaking, requiring the review of almost 50,000 emails, the monitoring of news and websites and the voluntary contributions from many of you in the field. In spite of this encouraging news, the fact is that police suicides continue at a rate much higher than the number of police officers killed by felons. This alone reminds us of the need to redouble our efforts, not only at suicide intervention, but on the maintenance of mental health in law enforcement. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the officer whose mind is on other problems, be they at home or at work, is a danger to himself and other officers who are relying on him. Much remains to be done.
 
For more on this, go to http://www.badgeoflife.com/

Police Suicide Study NSOPS

Police suicide is not a popular topic in the law enforcement culture.  As we learn more through research and study, however, it becomes obvious that suicide is merely “the tip of the iceberg” in comparison to the more important issue of mental health in law enforcement. 

 

It may well prove impossible to develop a program that can identify and prevent 150 suicides in a force of almost a million police officers.  It is clear, however, that when efforts are focused on mental health, instead of the narrower “suicide prevention,” there can be be benefits that include not only suicide prevention, but fewer:

 

officer deaths from shootings and accidents

lawsuits

complaints

sick leave

alcoholism

Substance abuse

Criminal/other behaviors

On and off-job injuries

divorces

grievances

resignations

 

NSOPS 2012 represents a turning point in efforts to save police lives and bring career quality and improved personal lifestyles to the men and women working America’s streets in uniform.  If you have any questions regarding the study or would like additional information regarding mental health training programs for law enforcement, contact Badge of Life at badgeoflife@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional references:

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19637497

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21138153

 

http://www.officer.com/article/10232405/2009-police-suicide-statistics

 

http://www.policesuicidestudy.com/id5.html

 

http://www.policesuicideprevention.com/id62.html

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