(NEW YORK) — A police officer died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home on Wednesday, marking the fourth New York Police Department (NYPD) suicide this month.
The officer fatally shot himself at his Hicksville home on Long Island Wednesday night, NYPD sources said. The officer, who served in the Bronx, was off-duty at the time.
It was the latest death in what the city’s police commissioner referred to as a “mental-health crisis.” Six NYPD officers have died by suicide this year, city officials said.
“When a suicide occurs, the department immediately deploys grief counselors, chaplains unit and employee assistance unit professionals to provide continuous support,” the department said in a statement Thursday. “We’ve been holding meetings across the department about what additional measures can be taken for officers and their mental health, and to dissolve the stigma that getting help could impact your career.”
On June 14, “a promising 29-year-old police officer with six years on the job” died behind the Staten Island precinct where he worked, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill said in a statement earlier this month, urging officers to seek help if they need it.
“This is a mental-health crisis,” O’Neill said. “And the NYPD and the law enforcement profession as a whole absolutely must take action. We must take care of each other; we must address this issue — now. Please take my statement below to heart & help yourself, your loved ones, & your colleagues.”
A recent white paper commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization, found that police officers and firefighters are more much more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.
In 2017, there were at least 103 firefighter suicides and 140 police officer suicides nationwide, researchers said. In contrast, 93 firefighters and 129 police officers died in the line of duty.
“First responders are heroes who run towards danger every day in order to save the lives of others,” Ruderman Family Foundation president Jay Ruderman said in a statement Thursday. “They are also human beings, and their work exerts a toll on their mental health. It is our obligation to support them in every way possible — to make sure that they feel welcome and able to access life-saving mental health care.”
“We need to end the silence that surrounds the issue of first responder mental health,” he added.
The NYPD said officers can should seek help for themselves or make a confidential referral for someone else by calling the department’s Employee Assistance Unit, Chaplains Unit or the POPPA.
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