New York City lags behind other major cities with aggressive mental health initiatives to prevent police officer suicides, and has the tragic statistics this year to show for it, a city councilman sponsoring legislation to remedy the problem told The New York Times. A record nine New York Police Department officers have killed themselves so far this year, a problem “we have allowed … to fester for too long,” said Donovan Richards, a city councilman from Queens who leads the Council’s Public Safety Committee, which oversees the Police Department.
Other cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, have lowered the number of suicides in their police forces with with measures that include efforts to remove the stigma of seeking counseling by making therapists visible and readily available. After four officers took their own lives in June, Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill called the situation a crisis and urged troubled officers to seek help from department chaplains, peer support groups or phone and text hotlines. The department has since launched a number of initiatives, including mandatory one-hour suicide-prevention courses called “Shield of Resilience,” which are designed to address problems specific to law enforcement. The bill Richards co-sponsors would direct the department to make dozens of added therapists available to officers and would help connect officers seeking aid with annual mental health checkups and peer support groups.