Stigma Against Seeking Help Weighs on Chicago PD Suicides

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The suicide rate of Chicago police officers is 60 percent higher than the national average, according to a recent U.S. Department of Justice report cited by Reuters. Critics say the problem has been exacerbated by a lack of mental health resources, with just three clinicians serving 12,500 sworn officers and their families, providing nearly 7,500 consultations in 2015. They add that Chicago officers are under pressure as the city has stumbled in trying to stem a surge in murders and shootings. “Chicago is a war zone,” said Alexa James, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Chicago. “They (officers) are seeing the worst day of everybody’s life every day.”

Chicago police’s suicide rate was 29.4 per 100,000 department members between 2013 and 2015, the Justice Department report said, citing police union figures. The department disagreed in the report, putting the rate at 22.7 suicides per 100,000 members. Both estimates were higher than the national average of 18.1 law enforcement suicides per 100,000. Officers say they face a deep-rooted stigma that works against anyone who seeks mental health help. Chicago police executives say mental wellness support services are being reviewed. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has acknowledged that the department’s approach to mental health was flawed.

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