Chicago Cop ‘Wellness’ Summit Opens Amid Concerns About Police Suicides

As concerns about police officers’ mental health spread across the country, Chicago kicked off a two-day summit meeting this week to discuss ways to improve the mental wellness of officers..

Over 100 mental health professionals from around the nation attended the summit sponsored by Chicago police and the University of Chicago Crime Lab, reports CBS 2 Chicago.

Last week, two New York Police Department (NYPD) officers died from suicide within 24 hours of each other.

Both officers, Deputy Chief Steven J. Silks, 62; and Joseph Calabrese, 58, had seen other officers commit suicide before them. Silks was due for mandatory retirement the next day.

NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill, joined other officials in the department about raising concerns that officers felt there was nowhere to turn.

“To the cops here today, I need you to know, help is available to you,” O’Neill told a news conference.

The deaths bring the number of NYPD suicides this year to three. Four officers died last year, and 48 officers have killed themselves over the last decade.

Three Chicago police have died by suicide so far this year, and four died by suicide last year, leading Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to seek strategies to combat this issue.

Police suicide is a problem throughout the nation. According to a study by the nonprofit Blue H.E.L.P., released in January, at least 159 police officers died by suicide in 2018.

This is the third year in a row that the number of deaths by suicide among police officers exceeded all other deaths on the line of duty. There were 9 percent more suicide deaths than all line-of-duty deaths combined.

New York has one of the highest numbers of officer suicides, along with California and Texas, the report found.

At least 12 officers committed suicide while on duty, the study said. In December of 2018, 20 officers died by suicide.

Almost one in 4 police officers has thoughts about suicide at some point, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

The suicide rate for officers the smallest police departments is nearly four times the national average, and the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than for firefighters, NAMI reported.

Mental Health issues among law enforcement are high in general. Rates of depression, PTSD, and other anxiety-related conditions are much higher among police that the general population, NAMI found.

Maria Trovato is a TCR news intern. She welcomes comments from readers.

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