Gun violence touches almost every corner of American society. Even those who are trained in gun safety are put at risk when their mental health takes a turn for the worst and their firearm becomes a dangerous tool to end their life. This year, 9 New York Police Officers have died by suicide. In fact, more police officers die by suicide every year than are killed in the line of duty.
However, the notion of “duty” is at least partly to blame. The act of putting your safety in jeopardy for the benefit of others comes with the job description. When personal sacrifice is worn as a badge of honor, it’s difficult to admit that you need help and ask for it (New York Times). Former New York State trooper and current epidemiologist John Violanti said that officers have at least a 54% higher risk of suicide than other workers. The combination of high-stress work environment and constant gun access makes it easy for officers to act on a suicidal impulse (New York Times).
Anyone who owns or carries a gun should know that access to a firearm increases the risk of suicide by three times (Everytown for Gun Safety). Officers are trained in gun safety for work. Suicide awareness and prevention should be addressed as a core part of that training. Police officers can be trained to recognize signs of depression and suicidal thoughts in their coworkers, and encouraged to talk openly about these issues. The same concern given to an officer inflicted with a bullet would should be given to an officer struggling with their mental health. There needs to be the same level of conversation and training about how to protect police officers as there is given to the people they serve.