Last year, 19 law enforcement and corrections officers committed suicide in New Jersey. That’s a substantial increase from years past, when the numbers were closer to 10.
This jump in police deaths comes well after the state released the Police Suicide Task Force report and increased mental health resources to law enforcement back in 2009.
Cherie Castellano is the head of Cop2Cop, a peer-to-peer, 24-hour hotline for cops in pain. While the number of suicides has risen, so too have the numbers of calls to her hotline, she said.
“We’re still continuing to see them using the line and averting suicides and using the services, so it’s very confusing, even to me, who’s supposed to be this national expert,” she said. “I’m confused.”
Of the 19 who died in 2015, Castellano said, only one officer had reached out to Cop2Cop.
The organization needs to think critically about how to combat stigma — a factor that keeps those with mentally illness from seeking help, she said.
Law enforcement carries with it certain risk factors for suicide.
“Easy access to a firearm has been demonstrated in a variety of research projects as being a potential element in someone’s ability to both consider and complete suicide,” said Castellano. “I think it’s also a thankless job that has a lot of stress, a lot of vicarious trauma, which can lead to a deterioration in your health and well–being.”