Every year, more police officers die by suicide than in the line of duty. According to the non-profit Blue HELP, at least 175 police officers have died by suicide this year, reports NBC News. While police departments and other government agencies increasingly are acknowledging the growing mental health crisis among police officers and first responders, less attention is paid to the families and spouses who are left behind. “Too many people take that stigma to heart and that stigma then passes on to the family, when it’s not the family’s fault,” said Karen Solomon, president of Blue HELP. “They shouldn’t be penalized. They shouldn’t suffer.”
It’s been three years since the sound of a gunshot shattered April Scherzer’s life in New Jersey. “Every day I wake up, I start from that,” said Scherzer, 38. “My day begins with that gunshot. I relive all of that, all over again.” She was in bed past midnight with her four-and-a-half-month-old twins. She ran downstairs and discovered husband Max in their living room after he ended his life with his service weapon. Max, 36, had spent 12 years as a police officer for the Westampton Township, N.J., Police Department, 40 minutes outside Philadelphia. For several years, he struggled to cope with depression, substance abuse and the effects of trauma often experienced by police officers and other first responders. “We hold our police officers up to such a high standard,” April Scherzer said. “Why don’t we take better care of them?” After her husband’s death, Scherzer received little emotional or financial support that other widows of deceased police officers normally receive. He was not honored with any kind of memorial. Max died on Aug. 21, 2016. She and her children lost their health insurance by October.