New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill is pleading with his department and the public to act after a third officer died by suicide in less than 10 days.
On Friday, O’Neill announced in a statement that “a promising, 29-year-old police officer with six years on the job” was the department’s latest loss that afternoon outside the Staten Island precinct office where he worked. His name was not given.
“This cannot be allowed to continue,” O’Neill said. “Cops spend so much of their days assisting others. But before we can help the people we serve, it is imperative that we first help ourselves.”
On June 5, 62-year-old Deputy Chief Steven Silks was found lifeless in a police vehicle near Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, The New York Times reported. Less than 24 hours later, 58-year-old veteran homicide detective Joseph Calabrese was discovered dead near Plumb Beach in Sheepshead Bay.
Now, the commissioner is urging officers to reach out for help.
“There is no shame in seeking assistance from the many resources available, both inside and outside the department,” he said. “Accepting help is never a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a sign of great strength.”
Showing solidarity with the NYPD, Mayor Bill de Blasio told the department in a tweet on Friday that “your city is here for you,” adding that resources would be placed “front and center so that our officers have every possible support.”
According to Blue H.E.L.P., a Massachusetts-based mental health advocacy group focusing on law enforcement, at least 159 officers in the U.S. died by suicide in 2018. Ten were reported in New York state, which was outnumbered only by Texas and California.
For the third year in a row, “police officer suicides exceed all combined causes of line-of-duty deaths,” the organization said. The overwhelming majority of deaths were seen among middle-aged males who had served for an average of 15 years.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.