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Law Enforcement Suicide. Tactics for Prevention and Intervention “Making Strides to Save Lives.”. The Tragedy of Suicide….

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law enforcement suicide

Law Enforcement Suicide

Tactics for Prevention and Intervention

“Making Strides to Save Lives.”

the tragedy of suicide
The Tragedy of Suicide….

Death rarely allows for elegant departures and tidy farewells. It comes between people randomly. Someone is left with the anguish of having been left unilaterally and unfairly. The leaving is not so bad when there is an agreed understanding beforehand, when there is time and space for a goodbye. It’s when there is no goodbye, or worse, a bad goodbye, that death becomes hateful, leaving one with a feeling of incompletion and irresolution.

~ Alla Bozarth-Campbell, Ph.D. ~

  • A permanent solution to a temporary situation…..
  • “The Forever Decision”
“Officers of the law are twice as likely to put a gun to their heads as be killed by someone else, and yet they are trained as if exactly the opposite were true.”
  • [Turvey]
ralph slovenko
Ralph Slovenko
  • “Approximately 80 percent of suicides have communicated their intent…...”
  • From the forward of Dr. John Violanti’s book, “Police Suicide;Epidemic in Blue”
paul quinnett ph d executive director qpr institute
Paul Quinnett, Ph.D.Executive Director – QPR Institute
  • “Now that we know suicide is preventable, the race is between education and tragedy.”
the experts speak
The Experts Speak
  • “Although suicide is always complex and multifactorial, most experts feel the majority of suicides remain preventable.”

Dr. Paul Quinnett, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

the real truth
The “Real Truth”
  • Not a very pretty picture but the facts are:
  • Police officers are 8 times more likely to die from suicide than homicide.
  • 3 times more likely to die from suicide than from accidental causes.
  • What is the true survival skill we seem to be missing?
what we know and don t know
What we know…. and don’t know
  • United States Law Enforcement Personnel as of October 2000
  • 708,000 Full Time Sworn Officers (State, County, and City)

U.S. Department of Justice

Bureau of Justice Statistics – Oct. 2002

john violanti ph d and the l a county sheriff s department
John Violanti, Ph.D. and The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department
  • Dr. Violanti – Through data and research at the University of Buffalo feels the rate for law enforcement is 17-21 per 100,000
  • Los Angeles County Sheriff puts the L.E. rate at 18 per 100,000
at 700 000 sworn law enforcement officers
At 700,000 + Sworn Law Enforcement Officers
  • At 18 per 100,000 the yearly total would be 126 to 130 law enforcement suicides per year
  • At 21 per 100,000 the total would be 147
the magnitude of the problem
The Magnitude of the Problem
  • NYPD (1985-98) Suicides =87, LODD=36 Compared to the National Rate: +29.1%
  • Chicago PD (1990-98) Suicides =22 LODD=12 Compared to the National Rate: + 50.9%
  • FBI (1993-98) Suicides =18, LODD= 4 Compared to the National Rate: + 116.6%
  • LAPD (1990-98) Suicides =20, LODD=11 Compared to National Rate: + 72.5%
ranked factors in law enforcement suicide
Ranked Factors in Law Enforcement suicide
  • Responses by NYPD Survey
  • Depression
  • Relationship conflicts or personal losses
  • Easy access to firearms
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Financial difficulty
  • Internal investigations
a word about depression
A Word About Depression…

The #1 cause of completed suicide

The common cold of modern life….

  • Has biological foundations - Serotonin
  • Very highly treatable if detected and acknowledged
  • Wishing to be dead is a frequent symptom of untreated depression
a word about alcohol
A word about alcohol…
  • Alcohol dissolves the “wall of resistance” that often keeps suicidal individuals alive.
  • Alcohol is found in the blood of most completed suicides – whether or not they were problem drinkers.
the myths of suicide
The Myths of Suicide
  • Happens without warning
  • Low Risk after mood improvement
  • Once suicidal, always suicidal
  • Is intent on dying
  • It’s so rare, they won’t do it
  • Runs in the family
  • No note – not a suicide
don t ignore these behaviors
Don’t ignore these behaviors
  • May be more aggressive when handling serious calls or situations – risk taking behavior
  • Cries often
  • Seems more agitated or nervous
  • Letters or communications to close friends outlining wishes if, “Something happens to me.”
  • Seems to lose their love of the profession / becomes disillusioned
  • Giving away possessions
  • Has tried to commit suicide before
verbal clues
Verbal Clues
  • I wish I were dead
  • I’m going to kill myself
  • I can’t take the way I feel any longer
  • I’m really getting tired of life
  • There is no meaning for anything anymore
  • I just can’t take the pain
  • You’d be better off without me
  • Nobody needs me anymore
do s of intervention
Do’s of Intervention
  • Remain Calm – Don’t seem shocked
  • Help define the problem
  • Rephrase thoughts
  • Focus on central issue
  • Stay close
  • Emphasize the temporary nature of the problem
important questions
Important Questions
  • Have you been thinking of killing yourself?
  • How would you do it? Do you have the means available?
  • Has anyone in your family committed suicide?
  • What are the odds you will kill yourself?
  • What has been keeping you alive so far?
  • What does the future hold for you?
the do nots of intervention
The Do Nots of Intervention
  • Don’t sound shocked
  • Don’t offer empty promises
  • Never debate morality
  • Never leave the person alone
  • Don’t remain the only person helping
Question the meaning of suicidal communication.
  • Persuade the person to get help.
  • Refer to competent counseling.
  • Ask a question…..Save a life!
  • QPR is not intended to be a form of counseling or treatment.
  • QPR is intended to offer hope through positive action.
qpr suicide myths and facts
QPR – Suicide Myths and Facts
  • Myth No one can stop a suicide, it is inevitable.
  • Fact The majority of people in crisis who get the help they need will never be suicidal again.
qpr suicide myths and facts1
QPR - Suicide Myths and facts
  • Myth Confronting a person about suicide will only make them angry and increase the risk of suicide
  • Fact Asking someone directly about suicidal intent lowers anxiety, opens up communications, and lowers the risk of an impulsive act.
qpr myths and facts
QPR - Myths and Facts
  • Myth Only Experts can prevent suicide
  • FactSuicide prevention is everybody’s business and anyone, with training, can prevent the tragedy of suicide.
qpr myths and facts1
QPR – Myths and Facts
  • Myth Suicidal people keep their plans to themselves
  • Fact Most suicidal people communicate their intent to someone within one week of completing suicide
qpr myths and facts2
QPR – Myths and Facts
  • Myth Those who talk about suicide just won’t do it.
  • Fact Those who talk about suicide may try or even complete an act of self destruction.
qpr myths and facts3
QPR – Myths and Facts
  • Myth Once a person decides to complete suicide, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.
  • Fact Suicide is viewed as the most preventable form of death and almost any positive action may save a life.
suicide warning signs
Suicide Warning Signs
  • The more clues and signs observed, the greater the risk. Take all signs seriously.
direct verbal clues
Direct Verbal Clues
  • “I’ve decided to kill myself.”
  • “I wish I were dead.”
  • “I’m going to commit suicide.”
  • “I’m going to end it all.”
  • “If (such and such) doesn’t happen I’m going to kill myself
indirect or coded clues
Indirect or “Coded” Clues
  • “I’m so tired of life I just can’t go on.”
  • “My family would be better off without me.”
  • “Who cares if I’m dead anyway.”
  • “I just want out.”
  • “I won’t be around much longer.”
  • “Pretty soon you won’t have to worry about me.”
qpr behavioral clues
QPR….Behavioral Clues
  • Any previous suicide attempt
  • Stockpiling pills
  • Co-occuring depression, moodiness, hopelessness
  • Putting personal affairs in order
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Sudden interest or disinterest in religion
  • Drug or alcohol abuse or relapse after period of recovery
situational clues
Situational Clues
  • Being terminated or an IA investigation
  • A recent unwanted move
  • Loss of any major relationship (red flag)
  • Death of a close loved one or cherished friend especially if by suicide
  • Diagnosis of a serious or terminal illness
  • Sudden unexpected loss of freedom / fear of punishment
  • Anticipated loss of financial security
situational clues cont
Situational Clues, cont.
  • Loss of a cherished therapist or counselor.
  • A fear of becoming a burden to others.
tips for asking the suicide question
Tips for asking the suicide question…
  • If in doubt, don’t wait, ask the question.
  • If the person is reluctant, be persistent
  • Find a private setting for your talk
  • Allow the person to talk freely
  • Give yourself plenty of time
  • Know what resources you have. QPR Card, phone numbers, counselors names and numbers, etc.
how to ask the suicide question less direct approach
How to Ask the Suicide Question-Less Direct Approach-
  • “Have you been unhappy lately?” “Have you been very unhappy lately?” “Have you been so unhappy lately that you’ve been thinking of ending your life?”
  • “Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?”
the suicide question direct approach
The Suicide Question-Direct Approach-
  • “You know, when people are as upset as you seem to be, they sometimes wish they were dead.” I’m wondering if you feel that way too?”
  • You look pretty miserable. Have you been thinking of killing yourself ?”
  • “Are you thinking about killing yourself ?”

(If you can’t ask the question, find someone who can)

p persuade how to persuade someone to stay alive
P = PersuadeHow to persuade someone to stay alive
  • Listen to the problem with your full attention.
  • Remember, suicide is not the problem, only the solution to a perceived insoluble problem.
  • Do not rush judgment.
  • Offer hope in any form.
p persuade then ask
P = PersuadeThen Ask:
  • “Will you go with me to get help ?”
  • “Will you let me help you get help?”
  • “We’re in this together, let’s get you back on track”


r refer
R = Refer
  • Suicidal people sometimes feel they can’t be helped so you may have to do more.
  • The best referral involves taking the person to immediate help.
  • Since almost all efforts to persuade someone to live instead of attempt suicide will be met with agreement and relief, don’t hesitate to get involved or take the lead.
very important
Very Important!!
  • In a suicide intervention, you will use your communication skills.
  • Patience, compassion, understanding, and listening skills will all come into play.
  • INSURE you have a plan in place and a competent, qualified mental health professional identified.
for effective qpr
For Effective QPR
  • Say, “I want you to live, or “I’m on your side….we’ll get through this.”
  • Get others involved. Ask the person who else might help. Family? Friends? Brothers or Sisters? Clergy? Physician?
for effective qpr1
For Effective QPR
  • Offer to work with the MHP or whoever will be assisting the person toward recovery.
  • Follow up with a simple visit, phone call, or card. Let them know you care about them. Caring may save a life.
please remember
Please Remember