New federal database helping to understand law enforcement suicide

Addressing law enforcement suicide

Addressing law enforcement suicide

A new program from the Federal Bureau of Investigation is helping better understand why current and former law enforcement officers die by suicide.

The FBI shared the new data from 2022 was shared in mid-April – it’s the first round of numbers from the program.

“The intent and benefit of the Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection is to better understand the factors related to law enforcement officer suicides,” explained the FBI.

Information was gathered from twenty-two agencies nationwide and shows there were nine attempted suicides in 2022 and 32 deaths by suicide – broken down by region, the Midwest had 7 of those deaths and the majority of attempted suicides.

The report also highlights potential contributing factors in some cases like relationship problems, burnout, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“I’m excited that it’s finally getting some notice,” Russ Hanes, founder and executive director of the Invisible Wounds Project (IWP), said about the new database.

“We have done a very poor job as a society, with mental health in general, but with our first responders and those that serve on the frontlines, we’ve done a really poor job of studying [this issue],” Hanes added.

Through therapy and simply connecting former and current first responders with similar struggles, IWP aims to address PTSD and stop first responder suicide.

“Trauma, and the raw feelings, and emotions, and the anxiety, and the stress that our first responders, and those working in those frontline positions, are dealing with is great,” Hanes added.

Hanes shared with us during a very difficult time for himself and his organization – one of their first-ever clients, retired Zumbrota police officer Gary Schroeder, died by suicide.

“Our pain for the [Schroeder] family is immense,” Hanes said.

“I knew that Gary struggled, and it was up and down, but it was, it was heartbreaking,” he added about learning about his death. “It’s hard to make sense of because Gary had a support system.”

The Zumbrota Police Department (ZPD) said Schroeder faithfully served the community for 18 years.

“Gary fought a hard and courageous battle against PTSD attained in the line of duty,” ZPD wrote. “Gary died of suicide on April 17th, 2023. He will be fondly remembered for his hearty laugh and his deep love for his community.”

Schroder’s death also hit home for another organization with similar goals, Heroes Helping Heroes (H3).

“We send our deepest sympathies to the Schroeder family,” H3 posted on Facebook, adding: “For those who are suffering in silence, please reach out to someone. You are not alone. You are needed. We are here.”

H3 says to help reduce the number of suicides by first responders as a result of PTSD, they provide peer support and referrals to medical professionals who specialize in PTSD.

Along with the FBI’s new database continuing to collect information to better understand this issue, those organizations and destigmatizing conversations about it will be key in making improvements – something the Minnesota Crisis Intervention Team includes in their training with law enforcement agencies.

“I think it’s really important that we are gathering this information,” Gennae Falconer, interim executive director for the Minnesota Crisis Intervention Team, said about the new federal program.

“I know that the Department of Justice has done a lot of research about suicide among Veterans, and we’ve learned a lot… through that research, so I think this is an important step,” Falconer said about the added focus on first responders. Anyone, at any time, can dial 988 to be connected to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.