Franklin James Cook

‘Badge of Life’ Works To Counter Police Trauma, Suicide

In Mental Illness, Prevention, Research on December 7, 2008 at 4:29 pm

badge-of-life1ORIGINAL REPORT — An article in the Sacramento Bee states that “far more police officers killed themselves with a firearm last year than were gunned down by criminals.” The report tells the story of a nonprofit organization called

Badge of Life , a band of retired cops, working officers, clinicians and researchers. Its members take their message into police academies whenever possible. To help ensure their “psychological survival,” members tell police recruits to schedule at least one mental health checkup each year.

“We spend hours training officers on how to shoot others. We need to spend more time teaching them how to avoid shooting themselves,” said Andrew O’Hara, who runs the group’s Web site.

Badge of Life is a newcomer to the suicide prevention community, and the subtitle in the name of the organization, “Psychological Survival for Police Officers,” describes its focus on the overall health of law enforcement officers.

“It is not just about suicide,” [O’Hara said.] “It is about mental health. For every suicide, there are probably a thousand other officers still struggling. Many of them take their pain all the way into retirement and kill themselves years later.”

John Violanti

John Violanti

The group tracks and comments on various data related to police suicide, which has caught the eye of researcher John Violanti , a former state trooper in New York who is now on the faculty of the School of Public Health and Health Professions at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

“In my opinion, the job of policing has become increasingly complex and frustrating. You almost need to be a lawyer now to do the job,” Violanti said. “The increasing level of violence also puts an extra load on officers.”

Violanti is the author of the book Police Suicide: Epidemic in Blue.

[The abridged URL for this post is  bit.ly/badgeoflife .]

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