In 2018, 167 police officers in the United States took their own life. The highest number of those suicides were from Texas law enforcement according to Blue Help, an organization that tracks officer suicides.
As a law enforcement officer, you never know what situation awaits on the other side of a call.
“Us as law enforcement officers, we see things the average citizen wouldn’t see, we respond to rapes, murders, suicides, we have to deliver death notifications, all these things take a toll on the mental health of first responders,” said Alton Chief of Police Jonathan Flores.
It’s because of this toll, Flores instilled a new program to make sure his officers are putting their mental health first.
“They will have access to a chaplain for counseling services, not only for them, but for their families as well,” said Flores.
The chaplain will be available 24-7, 365 days a year, at no cost to the officers or their families to talk about any issues they may be facing, regardless of their topic of the time.
“It’s 100% confidential to the employee and the counseling service will not report any of that back to the agency, unless it’s a matter of a life and death, i’ll never know what they say to the chaplain,” said Flores.
According to Blue Help, already 106 police officers have taken their own lives.
“For the last three years, police suicides have outnumbered line of duty deaths and that number is alarming,” said Flores, “Previously research has shown there’s a stigma to those in law enforcement, like officers, receiving mental health services so we want to break that stigma.”
Chief Flores says he’s hoping this will prevent anything like that from happening again in his department.
Something his officers agree with.
“We don’t really look at ourselves as the ones who need help, but it is there, the things we see on a day to day basis are tough, sometimes we don’t realize it but we can go home and still carry this with us and shut down to our families,” said Antonio Damian, an investigator with Alton Police.
The chaplain program is also available to Alton fire fighters, EMS, Dispatchers and their families.
The program is being paid for from with city funds.