A study of Police Suicide Statistics
Clark, RN, MS, Connecticut State Police (ret.)
O’Hara, California Highway Patrol (ret.)
A Badge of Life Police Mental Health Foundation article
January 4, 2013
Badge of Life completed
its annual survey of police suicides for 2012. Known as NSOPS (National
Study of Police Suicides), this was our third in a series of studies that began in 2008.
The studies for 2008 and 2012 were published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health. It is our plan
to publish the 2016 study in the same publication.
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One thing was clear in 2012: police suicides took
a noticeable drop. Our study in 2016, which will be published, will better tell if this is a continuing trend.
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.
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.
may well prove impossible to develop a program that can identify and prevent 125 - 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
On and off-job injuries
NSOPS 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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