Franklin James Cook

One Policeman’s Suicide Frames Inquiry about National Picture

In Prevention on March 31, 2009 at 9:55 pm

[Editor’s note: The original article includes a brief description of a suicide.] ORIGINAL REPORT — Reporter Brian Kuebler of ABC2 News tells the story of 62-year-old Edward William Eldridge, a 26-year veteran of the Baltimore City Police who recently died by suicide, and his report includes the National P.O.L.I.C.E. Suicide Foundation highlighting police suicide in the United States, which the foundation believes is “a growing and grossly under-reported problem in this country.”

“I believe that suicide among law enforcement officers in the United States is a viable option to them, viable option,” [says Rev. Robert Douglas, executive director of P.O.L.I.C.E., who is himself a former Baltimore City Police Officer.] “The longer we wait and the longer we refuse the face that we have a devastating issue facing us, I call it a cancer, it is a cancer that is growing very fast.”

Although no governmental agency keeps tally, according to Douglas’ foundation, about 400 officers, retired or active, commit suicide every year in this nation. That is an average of one every 17 to 21 hours.

Douglas says for some officers, what they see everyday, the loss of control out of uniform and the stigma of needing help contribute to the suicide rate.

Eldridge’s circumstances illustrate some of the warning signs for suicide that are sometimes exhibited by older men, including police officers:

Eldridge had no wife, no kids … no family. He was a loner. He was meticulous. He kept copious notes on everything, from what he handed out on Halloween each year to what aisle had what in the local grocery store.

[Homicide Detective Randy] Wynn believes it was that kind of organization and control that was challenged when Eldridge became a victim of a home invasion after retirement. Without his badge, playing the victim was an uncomfortable role. Without any friends or family, Wynn believes that crime against him was the beginning of the end.

“We’re as vulnerable as anybody else,” Wynn says.

[Editor’s note: A hasty Internet search uncovered only a 2004 article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, which states

Some studies found elevated suicide rates among police officers; others showed an average or low rate of suicide. However, the rates varied widely and were inconsistent and inconclusive, especially because of methodological shortcomings. Most studies have been conducted in limited specific police populations, particularly in the United States.

P.O.L.I.C.E ‘s assertions that the incidence of police suicide is “growing and grossly under-reported” and that “no governmental agency keeps tally” suggests the need for better data, and SPNAC invites comments by authorities on the subject pointing readers to additional pertinent information.]

[The abridged URL for this post is  http://tinyurl.com/PolicemansSuicide .]

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